Over the last 30 years, the internet has grown and matured to become the most important sales and marketing tool in history. For most of us, the web is pretty much always our first port of call these days when we’re looking for a new product or service. Consequently, a company’s website has become perhaps its most valuable promotional asset.
However, while most businesses do a great job of targeting their own local or national customer base, the internet by its very nature is global – meaning firms can often miss out on the potential for remote sales or expansion into overseas markets by not tailoring their sites for foreign visitors.
How website localization can expand company reach
Website localization aims to address this, giving businesses a firm footing in overseas markets by having a website targeted and optimized for foreign users. Through localization, your company can compete on a level playing field with businesses around the globe. Here are just a few ways how localization can help expand your company’s reach.
The number of fluent English speakers in the world: In a recent study performed in 2018, it was estimated there were 1.7 billion English speakers around the globe – but, of these, only 330-360 million considered themselves native speakers with any real level of fluency. In other words, only approximately 22% of supposed English speakers will understand the full content of your site – or around 5% of the global population at the time of the survey. While English is still considered a global language, it would be folly to suggest all your potential site visitors consider themselves fluent.
English-only websites remain the most popular: Despite the varying levels of English fluency around the world, English-only websites still outrank any others in terms of popularity. Indeed, just over 65% of those surveyed confirmed they visit English-oriented sites once a month or more. On average, sites in English still generate the most traffic and rank highest in search engine results across the whole of the internet – which all rather begs the question why so many companies fail to capitalize on these already-generated leads by not offering content in native tongues. Studying your website statistics will give you a clear idea which countries your traffic is coming from so you can offer content in those languages. Furthermore, your website analytics will also allow you to employ global SEO to rank higher in foreign search engines, thereby attracting even more visitors.
Time spent on native-speaker sites still outstrips English-only: In the survey, 68% of respondents confirmed they still vastly preferred to spend time on websites in their native language. Only 12% said they spend significant time on English-only websites – with the remaining 20% stating they spent time on both. Clearly, offering your web content in a native dialect will have an important bearing on whether foreign visitors stay or leave.
When it comes to e-commerce, native tongue is essential: The study also found that when it came to making purchases on e-commerce sites, 78% of respondents stated they never or only very rarely bought from English-only websites. Regardless of their level of English proficiency, there was a clear preference to buy from native-language websites.
If your company is to take advantage of the global economy, it needs to take a global perspective. It’s not enough to just consider English as the primary language of your website. Rather, by tailoring content to foreign visitors through website localization, you could hugely expand your potential market and generate more leads.