E-commerce and the Impact of Language on Consumer Behavior
E-commerce is one of the fastest growing markets in the world. It makes significantly large contributions to the economy internationally and has even become part and parcel of daily life in countries such as China, the United States or Japan. The latest figures announced in an article by the French Federation E-commerce et Vente a Distance (FEVAD) show that internet sales increased by more than 5% in the 2nd quarter of 2020, even during the coronavirus pandemic.
Companies have already registered this, as being present in local markets and localizing content to reach a new target of consumers is essential today. A comprehensive study done by Nimdzi through “Project Underwear” highlights the results of a 25-question global survey from 74 countries. The project is based on the premise known as the “underwear effect”, an expression used to describe situations where consumers make purchasing decisions during their most intimate moments, with their cell phone in their hand, not wearing anything but their underwear. Besides underwear, what could be more important for consumers all over the world?
The answer has to be without a doubt nothing but their mother tongue. Understanding what they are buying and having accessible knowledge in their native language about any desired product is essential for most consumers.
Localization is important differently in each culture
People from different cultures have unique ways of interacting with a product or a website, since their user experience varies from country to country. If we compare Chinese products to American ones, a unique user experience emerges from each area. Cultural diversity, but also the relationship to technology or even the increasing use of mobile devices affect the way people interact with products and websites.
In the graph above, we have a perfect example of cultural diversity and how it influences the purchasing decisions of consumers. When asked if they would buy a product or service available only in English, consumers responded differently depending on their culture. Thus, it turns out that consumers in countries such as Norway, Denmark, and India adapt better to content and products offered only in English, and overall will have less difficulty in purchasing something marketed in English. For Taiwan and South Korea, we observe the opposite effect: there is less interest in products that are not localized in their mother tongue.
Language preferences of online consumers: what happens when consumers have the choice of language?
Consumers from countries like Japan, Thailand, Russia are very receptive to localized products of international brands and are influenced by this criterion in their final choice, while in Nordic countries, people are not that sensitive to localized products, since it is easier for them to purchase something available in another language they know and understand, such as English. Analyzing this type of data should be the first step in detecting new markets. This is key to expanding your business by targeting and attracting a diversity of audiences.
Does not having a choice of language influences buyers?
The answer is yes. Buyers are influenced by their mother tongue and also by their culture. We can see in the graph below that most consumers favor products or content available in their native language. 55% of consumers around the world make their purchases online only in their mother tongue. If consumers cannot understand the description of a product, they are unlikely to click “add to cart” (assuming they have guessed where that button is on the webpage). If you want to reach a wider audience, thinking multilingually for your business and website is therefore a must.
How do native English buyers behave when faced with content that is not accessible in their language?
The graph below shows that they are not very receptive to content available in other languages, with this being especially true for Americans. Perhaps a first element of explanation would be that most people think English is a language which monopolizes the international business landscape. Also, as in other countries, cultural influence plays an equally important role in their consumption choices.
Localizing your products in consumers’ native language is essential to internationally extend a brand’s outreach. Companies that do not do this, will lose out on a very large part of their consumer target. Our recommendation is to dedicate resources to localizing into several languages depending on your target markets, or refrain from going internationally all-together. Doing the job halfway will not be beneficial to your overall image.
Translating content into a local or regional language gives you the opportunity to differentiate yourself from your competitors who may not have bet on those specific languages. Positioning your business on languages that are not dominant will give you an advantage over the competition and you can thus reach a new target that does not yet know your products.
Think about the latest statistics from Nimdzi showing that 9 out of 10 users will ignore your product if it is not in their native language. Choosing to go multilingual is therefore the key to your success because a majority of consumers around the world suffer from the dire lack of websites and resources in their own language.