Most websites in the world are in English. Non-English speaking readers in large countries with strong and autonomous cultural traditions, e.g. the Japanese, French, Russians or Germans spend relatively little time on English language websites. In countries whose mother tongue is not widely spoken internationally - e.g. Arabic (Egypt), Indonesian, Turkish and even Portuguese (Brazil) - few internet users cannot routinely read English.
This firm cultural regularity indicates how to reach your target audiences with your services and goods and by which communication channel in countries where you intend to expand or are already present with your business.
More time spent on a website means a customer engages more, looks at the offer more in-depth, sees more choices and buys more, with a greater likelihood of returning for more internet shopping. Understanding consumer tastes is worth the while to prepare adequate global brand communications at all levels, from general messages to specific product content.
Does English proficiency have an impact on the frequency of visits to English language sites and other browsing-related parameters?
The answer may seem obvious at first glance.
However, in business strategy details matter, such as the exact level of language proficiency. By distinguishing several language proficiency levels you can understand customer communication mechanisms better and start mapping out the needs for creating multilingual websites. Let us assume that users fall into five foreign language proficiency groups: highly confident, having good knowledge, understanding content selectively, with insufficient knowledge, or with no knowledge at all.
How large are these groups? Statistically, 11% of users are highly proficient in English, and only 22% have a good command.
Those most confident in their language skills visit English language sites most often. Almost all those who are proficient in their language skills can also make purchasing decisions in English. They go to English language websites even several times a day (35%), or at least once a day (41%) or several times a week (20%).
Those less confident in their language skills quit such sites quickly and much prefer to browse in their native language. This is a huge market at your waiting to be tapped into.
A strategy for creating and developing multilingual content is simply an essential component of an overall marketing and sales strategy in foreign markets. However simple it may seem, the message does not necessarily appeal to many operators with international ambitions. Here is an example from the author's experience: while negotiating a contract for the localization of a car parts distribution website we asked why in the envisaged choice of languages the client did not wish to include Dutch , and this despite past efforts to make a presence in this market. To this, we heard a disarmingly frank answer: "Because the outturn in this market do not justify such an investment for the time being". In this case, disregarding the language habits and abilities of potential customers has the effect of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
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