Is Localization right for you?

Backed by market research, we hope to convince you that localizing your firm’s content to suit the target audience is a challenge that is immensely rewarding and is the need of the hour in today’s global economy.

We live in a world that speaks more than 5000 languages, most of them have an associated script and many of them with multiple dialects. These languages were spoken, written and read by ethnic groups that were relatively cocooned in their respective circles because of geographical isolation and because long distance communication was a luxury, if not outright impossible. But with the advent of air travel and telecommunications, the world has transformed into the Global Village that is today.

During 2000-2018, the amount of internet penetration in the global regional markets of – Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East has grown[1] by more than a whopping 1000%. What this means is that billions of new prospective consumers have gone online in these years. Such a connected world is an opportunity in terms of massive size of the consumer market. However, all these regions have a strong presence of a native language that is not English. Therefore, this diversity in language in a challenge. This challenge is faced by Multinational Companies every single day in how they seize this opportunity that lay before them in the form of the globalized world, while facing the challenges it brings along.

Further, in many of these markets, consumers do have a basic understanding of English, as a remnant of British Imperialism and the spread of English associated with it. In such markets, one of the central decisions to make, is whether to offer the content of goods and services in the local language or to stick to English. It is not a trivial choice and has implications on revenue, brand image and growth. Leaving it in English is not a terrible idea either because it would help retain the firm’s control over the content – its meaning, tone and style – instead of the firms hired for Localization. However, this is an article to convince you otherwise, that there are good reasons to opt for localization and thereby obtain higher profitability, while maneuvering pitfalls.

Do customers prefer their native language?

In a study[2] it was shown that having a product description and the online UI in their native language significantly affected consumers’ purchase decision. However, the same report also indicates that the effect is stronger on highly priced products rather than on cheaper ones. So, when it comes to purchasing costly products, customers prefer to pore over the details in their native language before purchase. Another study [3] shows that when Italian students were asked to pick a product with two options – one with the packing text in English and the other with the text in Italian, they showed a marked preference toward those that used Italian instead.

Remember, this is the case even though those students were fairly familiar with English themselves. Additionally, the use of local languages was found to help in classifying customers into various segments, with separable characteristics in terms of consumer behavior. A survey by Gallup[4] shows that ~56% of respondents use their native language websites to search for and to purchase products online. So, more than half of the target customer base prefers their native language.

A more direct study[5] on customers based in Malaysia showed a direct relation between the choice of language used in an advertising campaign and the customers’ propensity toward purchase, in the case of health insurance products.

What else can native language contribute?

Native languages are best in evoking a sense of in-group familiarity among the customers which directly relates to the trust on the brand and its products. That trust is the holy grail toward increasing and sustaining brand image.

Combining this fact with the conclusions derived from all the aforementioned studies on preference for native language, it is clear how linguistic preferences play a critical role in consumer behavior and therefore on revenue. Therefore, adapting to these preferences of the global customer pool is an opportunity that ought to be pursued on a priority basis for global MNCs that dream of becoming truly ‘global’. Many MNCs have realized this and have begun outsourcing their content for localization. Because of that, it is said that the global Localization industry was one of the few that demonstrated a positive growth even during the period of the recent global recession.

If everyone else has already started doing it and are benefiting greatly, would you rather be left out?



[2] Can’t Read, Won’t Buy: Why Language Matters on Global Websites By Donald A. DePalma, Benjamin B. Sargent, and Renato S. Beninatto September 2006

[3] Cross-Cultural Consumer Behavior: Use of Local Language for Market Communication—A Study in Region Friuli Venezia Giulia (Italy) by Franco Rosa, Sandro Sillani & Michela Vasciaveo
Pages 621-648 | Journal of Food Products Marketing Volume 23, 2017 – Issue 6

[4] User language preferences online; Survey conducted by The Gallup Organization, Hungary upon the request of Directorate-General Information Society and Media

[5] The Influence of Language of Advertising on Customer Patronage Intention: Testing Moderation Effects of Race Muhammad Sabbir Rahman, Fadi Abdel Muniem Abdel Fattah, 1 2
Nuraihan Mat Daud and Osman Mohamad ; Middle-East Journal of Scientific Research 20 (Language for Communication and Learning): 67-74, 2014

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