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BizReport : Ecommerce archives : January 24, 2018

Your English-only website is putting off many potential customers

Personalization is key to ecommerce success, yet few brands are going so far as directing resources towards reaching Internet users who do not speak English. With more and more of the non-English speaking world coming online, translation - or to be more precise transcreation - is increasingly important to engage a truly global audience.

by Helen Leggatt

Bizreport reported on research by Smartling (2015) that found nearly half (48%) of brands have no budget allocated to translation for content that reaches outside the U.S. Almost 6 in 10 brands have no budget allocation to reach multi-lingual consumers inside the U.S.

Even among those brands that do translate website content most (86%) only translate to one other language.

The Common Sense Advisory's (CSA) 2014 updated report "Can't Read, Won't Buy" found that among 3,000 consumers across 10 countries (Brazil, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, Spain, and Turkey) 59% "never" (30%) or "rarely" (29%) make a purchase at English-language sites. More than half (56%) spend more time on sites in their native language than on English-only sites. Even Millennials, who are more comfortable with English, showed a strong preference for content in their own language.

More recently, the CSA reported that "Today's addressable online economic potential amounts to US$54.9 trillion, but English only grants access to 36.5% of that total. It takes a minimum of 11 additional languages, including German and Japanese, to open the door to 88.7% of the world's total online gross domestic product (GDP)".

New research from One Hour Translation found that brands do now appear to be considering more diverse languages. In their analysis of 7,400 English-language ecommerce website translation projects completed in 2017, there were less for the typically preferred languages such as German and French, and a far wider range of languages considered such as Korean, Chinese, Arabic, Swedish and Latin American Spanish.

"Diversification of target markets is a key differentiator for companies in the booming global e-commerce market," said Yaron Kaufman, co-founder and CMO of One Hour Translation. "Our data demonstrate that e-commerce players in the English-speaking world and other regions understand the value of diversification and act accordingly."

According to Clear Words Translators, languages to consider for translation in the near future are Hindi, Korean, Finnish and Danish. These languages are "going to become popular languages online, as the local online markets are growing".

Don't just translate... transcreate

However, translation is just the first step towards addressing an audience in their native language. To truly translate marketing messages there is an additional step marketers must consider - transcreation - also known as 'in-language copywriting', 'cultural adaptation' or 'copy adaptation'.

Why this additional step? Because word-for-word translation of marketing messages from one language to another is rarely adequate to effectively communicate marketing messages. Messages must also be tweaked to ensure they are culturally relevant. Transcreation does not mean altering just the written or spoken word, but also imagery. What is considered relevant imagery for one culture may be totally unsuitable, perhaps even off-putting, to another. Therefore, transcreation usually starts not with the source text, but with a creative brief.

According to Wilson Camelo, an experienced bilingual marketer and President of Camelo Communication, a simple word-for-word direct translation is tantamount to marketing to a youngster in the same way you would a much older person.

"Just like you don't market to a 12 year old girl the same way you would to her 70 year old grandmother just because they are the same race, gender, speak the same language, come from the same socio-economic level, etc., you have to modify your messaging to those that are from a different culture," says Camelo.

Tags: culture, ecommerce, language, marketing, research, translation

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