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Speaking the Customer’s Language
August 8, 2012 - By: - In: Language - Comments Off on Speaking the Customer’s Language

Business cliché 101. You have to speak the language of your customers. Literally. You have to speak their language.

You! There on the left… I see you smirking. You’re probably thinking, “So what?” All my Internet customers speak English.”

“All my customers speak English,” means you must be in the cherry-picker business.

I think it was Ronal Reagan who said that underneath every cherry is a Black Forest cake of opportunity. And the biggest slice of that cake is native-language buyers only.

Bad news: This big slice won’t buy in English.

Good news: Cost of entry is cheap and easy thanks to new language technology. In fact, it‘s a necessary cost of doing business. Those who fail to localize for language sell under incredible handicap.

“There is an undeniably strong link between in-language content and a consumer’s likelihood of making a purchase,” says Nataly Kelly of Common Sense Advisory, because:

  • 72.1% of consumers spend most or all of their time on websites in their own language.
  • 72.4% of consumers said they would be more likely to buy a product with information in their own language.
  • 56.2% of consumers said that the ability to obtain information in their own language is more important than price.

More than half of consumers are willing to pay more if you are willing to give them information in their own languages. Did you just open up a new browser to check out your favorite competitor website and see how many languages they offer? If not, you should,” Kelly writes in Harvard Business Review:

“Can you get by with English in Europe? You can if you’re carrying a camera, but not if you’re carrying a briefcase.” Nataly cites supporting evidence from last year’s Euro-barometer Web User’s Survey.

  • Nine out of 10 Internet users said that, when given a choice of languages, they always visited a website in their own language.
  • Nearly one in five Europeans (19%) said they never browse in a language other than their own.
  • 42% said they never purchase products and services in other languages.

I recently posted on this same report here.

English is ubiquitous for Americans travelling in Europe, as de rigueur in Euro-biz circles as a mint on the pillow. The gilded ghetto of English immersion can be complete in Euro-countries where English fluency is particularly high. So the native-speaker is surrounded at all times by a self-selected bubble of English fluency. The moment the monolingual speaker steps from the room, the English-bubble collapses. All those fluent English speakers return to their normal, native-linguistic state, in which they do all their thinking and spend all their money.

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