Which languages should we choose for localizing our website?
September 21, 2017
These are perhaps some of the hardest questions to answer when it comes to expanding your global market share and localizing your website. You’ll obviously need to take into account the countries in which you are already selling, or planning to sell, your products. Once you have identified those, it comes down to a balance between how many users and how much buying power you can reach with each language. For example, by adding German, you may only reach a relatively small percentage of the world’s online population, but their online GDP share is almost as high as that of the world’s online Spanish speakers.
Based on the research “Digital Opportunity: The Top 100 Languages for 2017” by industry consultancy Common Sense Advisory, Inc., with English alone, you only reach about 20% of the world’s online population and 38% of the world’s online GDP.
While it’s true that a much larger number of people understand and speak English to a certain extent, they are much more likely to make purchasing or other big decisions in their native language.
Adding a first tier of 13 languages (Simplified Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Arabic, Korean, Russian, Dutch, Traditional Chinese, Swedish; in order of online GDP share) allows you to reach just over half of the world’s online population and 90% of the world’s online GDP. Each further tier of languages will add a bit more to that, so you can work your way down the list as your budget allows and your company grows. See the images below.
Note that these numbers are constantly changing, especially due to the fast-growing online populations in Africa, Asia and Oceania, aided by strong smartphone penetration, affordable data plans and government investments and initiatives into the mobile grid. Websites and companies supporting these markets should be in a pole position to harvest these new economic opportunities.
Sources: Common Sense Advisory, Digital Opportunity: The Top 100 Languages for 2017 and Can’t Read, Won’t Buy