Speak their language

Written by Valencia Seah, Copywriter at Verztec Consulting Pte Ltd. This article appeared on CATS Recruit in The Straits Times dated Monday 30th August 2010.

In today’s world where information is literally at one’s fingertips, a website is a basic necessity for businesses and organizations. Companies who have set their sights on foreign markets, where English is not always the first language will soon realize that having a multilingual website is the most crucial prerequisite.

This article brings you up to speed with 8 excellent reasons.

1 ‐ Foreign markets are golden gooses in the making
Research carried out by Nielsen Netratings  described  foreign  internet  markets  as  “low-hanging fruit,” that is, with foresight and willpower, one can generate considerable revenue with relatively little effort.

The studies revealed that internet use in the traditional strong holds of the USA, Germany, the UK and Sweden has reached a plateau. On the other hand, in  countries  where English is not the native language such as  France,  Hong Kong,  Italy  and   Japan,  internet use is increasing exponentially.

As Kaizad Gotla, senior analyst at Nielsen Netratings states, “The  easiest opportunities  are in countries where internet usage patterns and user/site relationships are less  established. Acquiring users in markets that are currently in their growth stages  will  lead to a loyal user base that will pay dividends for internet companies in the future.”

2 ‐ Be the leader of the pack
Think outside the box if you want to get ahead in today’s competitive environment. Differentiate  your business from your competitors’. If they do not have multilingual websites, step up and take the lead. Establish your company or brand abroad before they do so. Eventually, companies without multilingual websites will have to contend with competitors who do. It is hardly surprising that customers would choose the website of the competitor that literally “speaks their language”.

3 ‐ Your website is your window to the world
The cost of localizing your website into another language is nominal compared with the returns you could gain. A multilingual website will bring an influx of new customers. By having your site accessible to potentially hundreds of thousands of people, you are showcasing your company across the world. For non‐English speaking users looking for your product or service, you automatically capture their attention.

4 ‐ Give your brand international presence
Having the ability to communicate to a whole new international audience in their own language will deliver results not only in the financial sense but also in terms of marketing and creating awareness of your brand, your range of services and products. A multilingual website is certainly one of the most cost effective ways of marketing your company, capturing new users, building relationships with new clients and giving your brand an international presence. Image is everything. A multilingual website demonstrates you think, work and deal across cultures and across borders.

5 ‐ Put in the personal touch
A multilingual website, if designed properly, overcomes potential cultural barriers through
allowing access in the local language. This immediately puts the user into a ‘cultural comfort zone’ as they are able to navigate, understand and interact with the website. This gives you bonus points as consumers who feel at home will be more willing to  engage your services or purchase your product.

6 ‐ Gain the trust of consumers
For many cultures there is an issue of trust when it comes to buying over the Internet, especially if the website is in a language they have trouble understanding fully. Offering your products or services in their local language allows customers to feel secure in the fact that they know what they are buying, the procedures they have to undertake and the people they are buying from.

7 ‐ Appeal to the popular search engines
Search engines lead people to your site. In China, Japan and France, Google, Yahoo and MSN are not the default search engines. Home-grown search engines are emerging and they are proving successful because they operate in their native languages and are focused on the habits and needs of their users. Such search engines are a key to tapping those markets and having pages of your site available in those languages ensure maximum potential for your site being picked up in searches.

8 – Test the waters with your website
Still unconvinced about the advantages of having a multilingual website? Well, a multilingual website is actually the perfect platform to test the response of a foreign market before you pump in more resources. With a multilingual website, you can communicate with a large audience and yet avoid the need to deal with the printing and distribution costs of having printed collaterals. Frequent updates to your website can be done with the click of a mouse, without incurring reprinting costs.

With the far-reaching advantages having a multilingual website brings, what else is holding you back?

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