Is Your Global Brand Marketing In Your Customer’s Native Language?

Brands that fail to create multilingual content risk driving customers, prospects to competitors.

Be Considered

A recent survey shows brands are marketing to customers outside the U.S. in a language not native to their country. Instead, brands continue to market to their global customer base in English only. Creating content for consumers in their own language greatly increases the odds they'll buy from you. Should translation be a priority for your brand?

How many of your customers speak a language other than English? How many of them don’t speak English at all? Are you marketing to this subset in a language they can understand?

These are some of the questions that Smartling, a translation management company, sought to find answers and solutions to in the study, “Translate or Pay the Price: Overlooked Marketing Opportunities for Global Businesses.”

In the survey of 160 marketing professionals from “emerging” brands in the U.S., Smartling found that 22 percent said 21 percent to 50 percent of their customer base came from outside the U.S., while 41 percent said up to 20 percent came from outside the States.

However, the majority – 70 percent – reported that even though they marketed to countries outside the U.S., it was in English only. Smartling called this shocking.

From the report:

“Companies that fail to deliver multilingual content may be missing out on tremendous buying power. Companies that communicate with multilingual audiences in English only risk driving customers and prospects to competitors.”

Why Brands Should Speak Their Customer’s Language

With all the care and strategy that goes into creating English-language content for a brand’s marketing, to have it fall on deaf ears in the target market seems wildly inefficient.

In another study from 2012 by the Common Sense Advisory, it found that 72 percent of consumers said they were more likely to buy a product with information in their own language.

Seems like a pretty obvious point, but are brands ignoring it?

Actually, it’s more a case of a lack of budget for our multilingual world, according to the Smartling report. Which is odd, considering:

  • Internet usage in all parts of the world is growing: Those in remote parts of the world are gaining Internet access at an alarming speed – and these could be your next customers. The report cites that the number of Internet users in Africa, for example, went from 18 percent of the population in 2013 to 38 percent in 2014.
  • Domestic brands also have other languages to consider: In the U.S., Spanish is a prevalent language; in fact, the report cites 53 million people in the U.S. are native Spanish speakers. And 78 percent use the Internet as their main information source, according to Smartling. Does your brand have a Hispanic customer base?

Multilanguage Marketing: Challenges & Tips

Marketing to multiple languages may not be as easy as simply garnering budget, especially with the technical implementation involved with a brand’s website content.

Bill Hunt, president of Back Azimuth Consulting, said the question of budget is often a “cart before the horse” situation when talking about localization marketing.

“While localization for your target markets is the optimal way to target non-English markets, companies may not have the budget to do so. There is opportunity, but you cannot target it until you have the localized version, and you cannot localize until you can prove there is market opportunity.”

Hunt recommended first starting by using simple English in a brand’s approach to marketing to a global audience, and even trying to understand “how people from around the world might search for that product” online.

“Many companies do very well with just an English site if they make sure they are answering the questions of the consumer. I have seen sites in 40 languages that fail to do that. So ensure you can make it easy for anyone to do business with you first, then focus on gaining additional opportunity with localization.”

Hunt adds that in the case of a brand’s Spanish-speaking audience, simply marketing to one Hispanic audience isn’t granular enough.

“In the case of Spanish, where there are 22 countries with Spanish as the official language, it is hard for most business to accommodate all of the variations,” Hunt said. “What I suggest is start with markets that use common phrases and develop for them.”

However, huge global campaigns can be extremely complex, especially in China, according to Michael Bonfils, managing partner at International Media Management. For example, he pointed out the difficulties brands face marketing in China.

“The Chinese market doesn’t trust sites enough to buy directly from them, unless you use a shopping portal, like Taobao or tMall,” Bonfils said. “For Intel, we have to get 15 dialect variations of one keyword. When you have 1,000 keywords, that turns into 15,000 very quickly. Not only that, the cost to operate in China and the amount of red tape and governmental authorizations one needs to go through is immense and can take a year to process.”

This study by Smartling is another reminder that brands can identify and have an impact on moments in the lives of non-English speaking consumers with persuasive, relevant messaging, thus expanding their global reach to bring ideas, products, and services to people around the world.

Do you market to a multilanguage customer base? What are some of the ways you cater to that diverse audience?

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