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The internet continues to grow and has become the default point of call for businesses and individuals searching for goods, services or information. For businesses wishing to get that competitive advantage, a multilingual website now presents one of the most high impact means of expanding a client base and securing greater sales volumes.
The multilingual website will continue to become a necessity for businesses and organisation as the process of internationalization unfolds.
Here are 10 good reason why you need a multilingual website today rather than later:
Shift Away from English Internet Users
The internet began as an English speaker's invention and as a result was dominated by English speaking users and sites. However, times are changing. With the growing numbers of people buying PC's and internet access available from Nigeria to New Zealand, English speakers will soon be in the minority when it comes to internet use.
Results of research carried out by Nielsen-Netratings in March 2005 described foreign internet markets as "low hanging fruit," i.e. if you have the will and foresight there are massive revenues to be found for relatively little effort. The results showed that internet use in the traditional strong holds of the USA, Germany, the UK and Sweden is flat lining. On the other hand countries such as France, Hong Kong, Italy and Japan are seeing substantial growth in internet usage.
As Kaizad Gotla, senior analyst at Nielsen-Netratings states, "The easiest opportunities are in countries where internet usage patterns and user/site relationhips 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."
Cost Effective Marketing Tool
Having the ability to communicate to a whole new international audience in their own language will undoubtedly yield results not only in a financial sense but also in terms of marketing and creating awareness of your brand, service or product.
A multilingual website in the grand scheme of things is probably one of the most cost effective ways of marketing your company, capturing new users, building relationhips with new clients and giving your brand an international outlook.
Ultimately what a multilingual website brings you are new customers. By having your site accessible to potentially thousands of people you are showcasing your company across the globe. For non-English speaking users looking for your product or service, you automatically capture their attention.
With every language added to a website there is the potential for an increase of between 100% in sales. Even if a multilingual website is translated into a few of the major world languages, i.e. Spanish, French, German and Italian there is potentially a 400% increase in sales. There are few other ways to get such an increase for such little investment.
A multilingual website demontrates you are thinking about the customer. That little extra effort shows you have thought and cared enough about them to offer the website in their language. As with anything in business, if the customer thinks you care, they will want to do business with you.
For many cultures there is an issue of trust when it comes to buying over the internet, especially if they feel it is in a language they are not fully proficient in. Offering them a language alternative allows the customers to feel secure in the fact they know what they are buying, how and who from.
A multilingual website, if designed properly, overcomes potential cultural barriers through allowing access in a native language. This automatically puts the user in a 'cultural comfort zone' due to their being able to navigate, understand and interact with the website.
To get the competitive advantage in today's environment you need to think outside the box. Many businesses try to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Look at your competitors - if they have multilingual websites then why don't you? If they don't, then why not lead the marketplace and establish your company or brand abroad before they do.
Shows International Nature
Image is everything. A multilingual website demontrates you think, work and deal internationally.
Search engines lead people to your site. In countries such as 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 work in native languages and are focused on the habits and needs of their users. Such search engines are a key to tapping those markets and unless they have access to a particular language through your multilingual website then you will not be found.
In addition, many of the key search engines, especially Google, are developing the capacity to run searches in foreign languages. Having pages of your site available in those languages ensures maximum potential for your site being picked up in searches.
Business continually sees shifts and changes. At present the multilingual website is still in its early stages, with mostly large multinational companies using them to secure an international foothold. However, the trickle down effect will naturally occur and the multilingual website will become part and parcel of an internet presence. Whether people chose to invest now or later is the only choice they have.
Neil Payne is Managing Director of Kwintessential, a cross cultural communication conultancy that provides multilingual website design. http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/multilingual/website-design.html
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