A long time ago, October 6th, 2006 to be precise, I read this article, Going overseas? Make sure to brush up on foreign languages, which was about e-retailers expanding internationally and…. discovering that not everybody speaks English, that people prefer to buy in their own language. Ahh… duh!! The article goes so far as to cite research findings on this “new” discovery: “E-retailers moving into global sales can dramatically increase their potential customer base by localizing their web content to the native languages of audiences outside of the U.S., concludes a new study. 52.4% of consumers”; “According to the results, most people prefer to buy online in their own language, and, in fact, the majority in some countries will pay more for a product packaged with information in their own language, he adds”.
Wow… I wonder how much money was wasted on this research that simply states the obvious. I mean, it’s only a matter of taking a trip down to Puerto Rico (an US state) to realize that people speak other languages and do business in that language, the language in which they function and are comfortable with. What’s so difficult to understand? Can somebody, please shed some light on this for me, because I think it’s pretty obvious… but if I’m missing something, I’d like to know more.
At the end of the report, they justify conducting this research by saying “There is a longstanding assumption that enough people on the web feel comfortable using English, especially when buying high-tech or expensive products”. Ahh.. where did they get this from? What assumption and who’s assuming this? If English-speaking people are assuming this, then there’s no mystery that they think that most people speak English. As usual, it lacks sensibility and common sense to the real world of “outside the US”. Granted that English is the business language, but business here means from corporations to corporations, executives to executives, governments to governments, not e-tailers to consumers, or not corporations to consumers, for that matter.
Assumptions like that are so dangerous to make… we marketers need to put ourselves in our costumers’ shoes and go through what they go through to make a purchase. Imagine if the Chinese assume that enough people in the world speak Chinese and that’s how it’s going to be. How would we feel about that? I’m pretty sure they’d have to adapt their business and websites to other languages if they wanted to sell in other countries.