Whether you are just starting out or already have a global business, your online presence plays a vital role in taking your products and services to the right audience. The value and reach of your message increase the moment you start to make use of the global platform that is the internet. Your website, your social media posts and all other online avenues that carry your brand name are now the biggest influencers for your customer. However, with increased competition and changing consumer behaviour, customisation is key if you want to stand out from the crowd. This includes delivering your message in the language of the consumer.
“The Web does not just connect machines, it connects people” – Tim Berners-Lee.
According to a survey, consumers around the world prefer content in their native language, with around 60% of online consumers rarely buying from English-only websites.
The question is, which language/s should your online content be in? Even though it usually depends on your specific target market, the question becomes far more pertinent if you want to venture into the global marketplace. Logic might dictate going for the most spoken languages across the globe, so your products and services get the most coverage. According to Statistica, Chinese is the most spoken language in the world with English taking the third spot. So, why don’t we have most of our content in Mandarin (Chinese) first and then think about English?
Because English remains the language of globalisation!
Used in 94 countries by 339 million native speakers, and being the main language of the United States and an official language of the United Kingdom, Australia and South Africa, to name a few, English is still the essential language for business.
English also still ranks highest in the list of the most commonly used languages among internet users at nearly 25%. Here is a look at this list:
However, having once being the lingua franca of the internet, English’s share of digital space has diminished somewhat, with Chinese, Spanish and Arabic all pushing into the list of top online languages. These languages dominate the internet, making up roughly 82% of the total online content.
Closely following the US economy, China has witnessed significant growth and expanded its reach across the world market, whether it’s for pharmaceuticals, engineering, technology or consumer goods.
Also, with the largest number of native speakers, you just can’t ignore the language in the digital sphere. By March 2019, China had topped the list of countries with the most internet users, with well over double the amount in the United States!
Spanish is the official language of 20 countries and the native tongue of 460 million people across the globe. With over 37.6 million native speakers, the United States is the second largest Spanish-speaking country in the world. Along with other Spanish-speaking countries, such as Spain, Mexico, Colombia and Argentina, it offers a whole gamut of business opportunities.
There are currently 344 million Spanish-speaking internet users in the world, a number that is expected to grow with the predicted growth in purchasing power of the Spanish-speaking countries.
The Arabic language is spoken by 319 million speakers all over the world and remains the official language of many growing economies in the Middle East and Africa.
Internet access has continued to grow in the Arab-speaking regions. According to the mobile network operators’ global trade body GSMA, an estimated 65% of people in this region will own a smartphone by 2020. Also, with trade initiatives such as the ‘Digital Silk Road’ between Saudi Arabia and China, there is growing demand for digital content in Arabic.
There were around 140 million internet users in Brazil in 2016, making it the largest internet market in Latin America and also the fourth largest internet market overall. Recent trends predict that the internet penetration rate will grow to 61 percent by 2021. Here is an interesting statistic: In 2018, 58.51 m users shopped online in Brazil!
While e-commerce sales currently only account for five percent of Indonesia’s total retail sales, this figure is expected to rise to somewhere in the range of 17–30 percent in the next five years. According to McKinsey, the value of the e-commerce market is expected to reach USD 55–65 billion by 2022, having been just USD 8 billion in 2017. This gives you an indication of the growth of the digital economy of Indonesia, further adding to the importance of Malay as a language of world wide web.
French is the official language of over 29 countries throughout the world and the European Union as a whole. This automatically makes it a vital business language for the UK, considering in 2018 around 46.6% of UK exports by value were delivered to the European Union.
Also, most French-speaking countries, including France, Canada, Belgium, Switzerland and Luxembourg have seen a consistent rise in e-commerce. In France alone, revenue from the e-commerce market amounted to USD 49,929 m in 2019 and is expected to see healthy growth of 7.7% by 2023.
Japan is one of the fastest-growing online markets in the world. This could may be due to the single-language culture, steady economy growth rate, and a predominantly urban population.
In 2017, Japan had an estimated 82.59 million online consumers. By 2021, this number is estimated to rise by 6.33 million. With 93.3% of the population using the internet, Japan offers massive opportunities for e-commerce and digital marketing.
The historical influence of Soviet Union has ensured Russia remains an official language of the United Nations. It is also commonly used in some of the post-Soviet states that are now growing economies and offering many business opportunities.
Morgan Stanley projects online retail sales of physical goods in Russia will grow to USD 31 billion in 2020 from USD 18 billion in 2017, and could reach USD 52 billion by 2023. But despite the digital growth, Russia still has one of the lowest English proficiency levels in Europe. This means that, to tap into the country’s e-commerce market, your business should be conducted in Russian.
Germany has one of the largest economies in Europe with a massive online presence. In terms of domain endings, Germany’s .de is the second most popular domain extension with 13.05 million websites registered. Furthermore, total online sales of goods and services in 2016 for Germany stood at around EUR 66.8 billion.
Many other countries with developing/developed economies, such as Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland also have German as an official language. So, having your content in German will open up a large market for your products and services.
If you are thinking about having your website content, marketing collateral or business documents translated in any of the above languages, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our award winning team!
Written by Marya Jabeen