The way we communicate and how we get our information is hugely different now to how it was 30 years ago. Back then, ‘surfing the web’ as it was known, was primitive and not available to many.
But today it’s hard to imagine a world without an internet connection. According to statista.com there were 4,66 billion internet users worldwide in January 2021, meaning 59.5% of the global population was able to get online. The majority of these used a mobile device.
The small but powerful device we hold in our hand is our gateway to almost unbounded information. We access financial services, maps, shopping, films, music and of course, our social lives. This use of the internet and mobile devices in particular, provides a ready and willing global audience for video, text, images, audio and everything we like to refer to as content.
What is content?
Content can be technical, journalistic, marketing or educational but the definition is relatively fluid. When it’s intended to have an impact with an end user then it’s content. Although content can take the form of art, books and performance, today we mostly associate it with the digital realm.
It’s commonly linked with marketing output and the varieties of content that can be produced for enticing customers is pretty much inexhaustible. Here, a well-known content marketing agency lists a breath-taking 101 diverse types of digital content in its blog. Gosh, that’s quite a choice.
But what if you have digital technical manuals or training videos or a press release to get out onto the web? Yep, that counts as content too.
The pandemic effect
Content enables you to make a connection with your audience. The last two years saw the reliance on digital forms of connection and communication amplify as meeting or shopping or doing much of anything at all became impossible in person. The pandemic pushed us even more online and it’s unlikely that this shift will be completely reversed.
A survey conducted in October 2020 illustrated this important change. The respondents’ answers showed that ‘going digital’ was not just for shopping. Accessing information about health, reading newspapers and magazines and connecting through online platforms all increased markedly following the outbreak of Covid-19. Perhaps most notably, respondents largely expected these habits to continue following the relaxation of pandemic restrictions.
There’s no looking back now folks. These changes to way we consume information are here to stay.
Hey! Over here!
The scramble to grab the attention of your audience is more intense now than ever. Fierce competition, especially in the e-commerce environment, means customers and end users are increasingly discerning and winning their trust is tough.
The way we buy online has evolved rapidly over the last few years. Where once we were happy on the traditional ecommerce sites of larger retailers, now we do our shopping via social media, search engines and online marketplaces. These alternatives enable smaller sellers to gain a foothold online and give the consumer a wide choice.
Producing the right type of content for all these platforms is challenging and getting it wrong might mean a dip in engagement and sales. And that might only be in one language. When your company starts planning a move into new markets, the task of making sure your content hits the right note in other languages can seem decidedly complex.
A global phenomenon
Figures from UNCTAD, the United Nations body for trade and development, show that the pandemic-fuelled boost to online participation was not limited to Western economies. Emerging nations reported increases in online retail activity, with UNCTAD highlighting robust growth in South America and Thailand. Southeast Asia’s digital economy as a whole has also been flourishing, with seventy million more people in the area becoming digital consumers since the outbreak of the virus in 2020.
In other words, the world is getting online. Fast.
English isn’t enough
A widening digital audience now expects to receive information and shop online in its own language. Since 2006 CSA Research has been conducting an extensive survey of thousands of consumers across the globe to show the value of localizing content in the online buying process. The title of the survey, ‘Can’t Read Won’t Buy’ is self-explanatory and the results clearly show that consumers prefer to make online purchases in their first language.
It’s no longer acceptable nor adequate to offer your consumers a monolingual English website when you expect them to make purchases from other locations.
Some types of content – news or knowledge based – will probably reach those across the world using English as a lingua franca, but the act of spending hard-earned cash is much more likely to take place in the language people feel most at home with.
The Americans speak English, right?
Well, yes but, erm, it’s complicated.
Making the assumption that UK consumers will happily access content and buy online in American English and vice versa, is risky. The differences between the two versions of the language are subtle but significant. There are the obvious contrasts in spelling and vocabulary, but the nuance of humor and cultural reference can be jarring and alienating to an audience if not addressed.
This example of the differences in UK and US English serves to highlight the multifariousness of language in the digital sphere. Underestimating the desire of your audience to receive information in their home language can have unwelcome consequences, especially if you expect them to make a purchase.
Nurturing your consumers by speaking to them in their own language is plainly good practice. In a highly competitive and increasingly linguistically diverse online universe, making sure your content connects you to your audience is a necessity.
Watch this space
Look out for our next blog on the different alternatives to standard translation and how they could work for your content.
In the meantime, if you have any questions about translating your content, or anything at all language related, just