With 40% of the world’s population online, for any business looking to trade internationally an effective web presence is a must. But beyond simply launching a website, it’s important to consider the target audience, and not just for marketing preferences.

Time and resource can be devoted to optimising a ‘site, but when 75% of online users – even those who are multi-lingual – prefer to buy in their own language it’s vital to consider the question of website localisation.

1. Identify the opportunity

Digital trends are a good indicator for an organisation looking to expand an online presence overseas. Unsurprisingly, with 20% of the global online audience, and over one third of the buying power, English tops the language opportunity list. But what should you target beyond this?

It’s important to note that 14 languages can reach over 90% of the global online opportunity. But, while this may appear to make decisions clear cut, recent research carried out by Common Sense Advisory (CSA) highlights that there is more to consider than first meets the eye. To help you make an informed decision, we’ve included an overview of the online GDP share for each below.

2. Choose languages carefully
Chinese accounts for an online audience of 667 million people and has experienced consistent growth to reach a 10% share of online GDP, but it’s not a uniform picture. While the economic opportunity of those trading in Simplified Chinese has seen a staggering 235% growth in just five years, Traditional Chinese has remained consistent across this period. With some commentators suggesting a gradual decline of this variant it’s important to take care in selecting language options and using resource.

3. Factor in localisation
Cultural differences between societies also need to be taken into account. Development work may be required to create an effective message. It is, for instance important to ensure that businesses communicating with the Far East adopt a formal approach, while Western clients may respond better to a more relaxed tone– localisation is more than just language.

4. Get ahead of the competition
Arabic and Korean, once far from the radar of the global strategist, are increasingly becoming commonplace. Both rank in the top ten of global languages for 2015 and look set to stay there. As such these must be high on the list of marketers looking to gain an edge in an ever more competitive global market.

Beyond the top 14, the growth languages – Indonesian, Persian and Turkish – represent a combined online population in excess of 136 million. However, while all three are widely tipped to force their way into the first rank in time, the buying power of these online communities raises questions about return on the investment for all but the most integrated businesses – at least for now.

So where do you start?
The investment required for translating content into the top 14 online languages can be daunting – even more so if those growing languages are added in. As such, it’s important to work with an experienced Language Service Provider to consult and deliver on your project.

When embarking on such a project the first consideration needs to be operational – where can you trade? Regardless of the opportunity, if you can’t service this market effectively you’re going to run into problems.

Next, where is the opportunity? The CSA study referenced provides a great understating of buying power by language and can be consulted further as a valuable resource.
Finally, make sure the content is culturally appropriate before you start. Material may be impeccably translated, but if the original message missed the mark, it’s unlikely to help you meet your goals.

The opportunities generated in trading internationally are vast and an effective web presence can act as a gateway to growth. With an effective plan and specialist partner you can unlock this world of opportunity.