90% of people prefer to browse the web in their native language

Any business targeting expats–whether it’s a huge multinational or a web start-up–faces the hurdle of multiple languages. Chances are your customer base reads at least a little English, but it probably isn’t their language of choice.

Consider the findings of the 2006 book Can’t Read, Won’t Buy, which showed 90% of shoppers wanted access to online information in their native languages. A 2011 EU survey found the same holds true today: 90% of Europeans prefer to browse the web in their mother tongue.

Still not convinced?

Some fast facts courtesy of online marketing specialist Tronmedia:

  • 89% of Hispanic Americans speak Spanish at home with their families, and represent a combined estimated purchasing power of USD 1.2 trillion.
  • Polish residents in the UK have an estimated spending power of GBP 4 billion, an average GBP 8,000 worth of disposable income per person.
  • When Best Buy launched its Spanish-language website it found Spanish customers spent twice as much time on the site and spent nearly double that of English-speaking users.

There is also far less competition for translated keywords than English phrases, meaning a multilingual website will help your site scale the Google rankings further and faster.

The tough part is of course translating your English-language content into foreign languages. Essentially you can either hire native speakers to produce or translate content in other languages, or contract to a firm specializing in translations. Deciding which is best depends largely on the usual variables: company size, budget, et cetera. Use your analytics data to hone in on the right languages–if most of your readers speak Russian or Arabic they’re not going to be too impressed with your Spanish website.