Should Businesses Prioritise Being Multilingual?

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The latest communication and travel technologies have made the world a smaller place. This means businesses of all sizes should prioritise being multilingual if they want to achieve higher profits.

The overwhelming majority of modern consumers – more than two out of three in a recent survey – said it was important for businesses to provide a complete customer experience in their native language.

The numbers back this up. Businesses that make being multilingual a priority see all kinds of benefits in terms of reach, reputation, customer loyalty, and profits than those that don’t.

Here’s what you need to know about why a multilingual approach is now more important for organisations than it ever has been before.

Why should a business prioritise being multilingual?

1) Even local and domestic markets are becoming multicultural

The globalisation of the past few decades has seen a huge increase in the diversity of language and origins of people in almost any given part of the world.

Even if you only target your domestic market, in many parts of the world – especially cities – you will increasingly find people that have chosen to live or work there but who originate from somewhere else.

Adopting a multilingual approach lets you reach out to previously untapped domestic audiences, becoming the go-to choice in your niche or industry for people who know you make the effort to deliver the best experience for them.

2) Help more customers find you and buy from you

A local business that literally speaks their language is something that huge numbers of people find hugely appealing. Just envision how many businesses in Spain make their living by adapting to the needs of the British expat (immigrant) community, for example.

In a recent survey, overwhelming numbers of global consumers underscored the importance of goods and services being available in their mother tongue:

  • Around 74% of consumers would change to a new brand if they offered a service or product in their native language
  • Roughly 73% of consumers would be more loyal to a brand that communicated with them in their native language

However, it is worth pointing out that over 92% of consumers in the same survey said they would be less loyal to a brand that offered poor customer service – even if it was in their mother tongue.

This highlights the fact that localising your customer experience is only one part of the puzzle. You still need to be delivering great service even if you reach out to do it in your audience’s preferred language.

3) Boost your reputation

Reaching out to an underserved audience, whether domestic or international, is a great way to boost your brand’s reputation if you do it well.

These days, people expect their favourite brands to talk to them in their own language. This creates the kind of positive boost in brand reputation that will only ever be good for business.

A commonality of language helps your brand connect more powerfully with your audience too. It makes for clearer communications and lets your team be more empathetic (and, almost as important, be perceived as being that way).

The negative side is that with so many other options out there, many consumers will reach in another direction – even toward a lower quality service or product – simply because they feel happier and safer when the sales process happens in their preferred language.

A business that doesn’t put the effort into multilingual communication while simultaneously being happy to sell to a multilingual or multicultural audience leaves itself open to accusations of bias.

4) Grow customer loyalty

A positive brand and an organisation that creates positive, inclusive interactions is a business that people want to advocate for. It’s also one that people will return to use time and again.

Some brands spend a lot of money on customer retention. For those that invest in translating their offering and providing a truly multilingual customer experience though, that loyalty can grow naturally alongside their expanded reach.

There’s been some research that shows the languages learned in childhood come with their own emotional weight, eliciting a more powerful emotional response when heard in adulthood.

This is something that has potential ramifications for advertising. It’s also beneficial for the customer support process, where a shared childhood language creates a stronger bond with the consumer.

5) More reach + reputation + loyalty = profit

The net result of a wider reach and expanded audience combined with a stronger connection and better brand reputation ends up being greater profit. Some interesting recent research shows that:

  • 64% of consumers would pay more for a product or service in their native language
  • 74% of millennials and younger age ranges would pay for a native language option
  • Around 25% of consumers would only spend a limited amount if a native language wasn’t available

How multilingual and translation expertise lets you reach new markets

1) Make communication clear

Communication skills are one of the most important at every level of business. They’re equally vital:

  1. Internally – if you want to ensure you and your international team – and these days, it’s a rare business of any size that has a mono-cultural team – are passing ideas clearly between yourselves, you need clear communication.
  2. Externally – if you want to bridge gaps between your offering and the culture of your target market, having a multilingual approach is vital.

2) Meet local culture where it lives

The simplest reason this is important is that some products and services are intrinsically unsuitable for some audiences.

There is simply no point in trying to sell in a market where there is zero demand for your product. If you don’t understand that market and its culture, you can potentially waste a lot of money trying, as various brands have found to their immense cost.

Equally, there is no point in a business trying to sell and doing it badly because it was insufficiently committed to being multilingual. Examples abound of brands whose translation efforts were clearly skin-deep and terrible, often costing them millions of pounds.

Of course, being multilingual is about more than simply speaking the right language. It’s about understanding a target culture so that you can deliver the things they value and sell to them effectively.

What does a multilingual approach include?

A multilingual approach includes a whole range of activities designed to deliver a complete customer experience in a given target language that’s suitable for someone from the target culture. It might mean you need to:

  • Localise your website, e-commerce functions, and marketing
  • Adjust to and understand time zones
  • Translate and localise physical signs, product information, and other business communications
  • Localise product packaging, instructional and e-learning materials
  • Have a multilingual chatbot and local customer support professionals
  • Hire multilingual members of staff or promote linguistic diversity internally

How to deliver a multilingual customer experience – tips

1) Use native speakers and local people

If you don’t work with either an internal team member or a Language Service Provider that has native experience of your target market, accurate local knowledge can be difficult to gain.

This knowledge will always be from the point of view of someone on the outside looking in. This is far less valuable from a consumer understanding and marketing perspective than someone who understands a culture because they were raised in it.

From a quality standpoint, only professionally qualified linguists – external or internal – should be used for the actual translation. Yet a native of your target culture can be invaluable when you need to:

  1. Build trust – local hires can help you build up that vital trust and relationships with local partners and your new audience.
  2. Plan your message – local experience can always help guide your approach, even if they don’t have the expertise to deliver a well-judged or accurate localisation.
  3. Grow knowledge – a local team member should also be able to indicate the benefits of targeting certain local regions with certain messages.
  4. Network – they may also come with an existing network of local contacts you can leverage.

2) Do your research and track your results

Local knowledge provided by your team or from your Language Service Provider should be supplemented by good quality market research.

As with any market, you need to understand the consumers in it if you want to succeed. You need to know their expectations in terms of language and culture and the styles and channels of communication that are most valued.

For instance, some regions prefer certain social media channels. Others may expect a certain tone from a company that is trying to sell a product – or welcome them to a service.

Knowing the intricacies of factors like this in any given market requires extensive knowledge and research. It shouldn’t be done lightly if you won’t want to risk your brand reputation.

This research shouldn’t stop at launch in a new market. Gather data, feedback, and results and analyse them to ensure your efforts are bearing fruit.

3) Localise properly and professionally

Your localisation efforts should be as comprehensive as you can make them if you want to reach your new audience effectively:

  1. Localise your products – from packaging to instructions to the currency, sizes, service packages, and measures they can be bought in based on their relevancy to your new audience.
  2. Localise your customer service – and plan to fully localise your help documentation if you want to use your customer support resources most efficiently.
  3. Use a TMS – a Translation Management System lets you track and manage your translation workflow and most will even connect to your customer service software, automating large parts of the process.

Prioritising being multilingual doesn’t mean do everything at once

Deciding to target a new language or audience segment from another culture doesn’t and shouldn’t mean you need to translate everything instantly.

Instead, you can invest in certain regions or languages that your research shows will pay bigger dividends. You can plan to roll out to given audiences slowly in a methodical, low-impact manner.

However you start to do it though, the reasons why businesses should prioritise being multilingual are there to be seen. More reach. More reputation. More loyalty. More profit.


Not sure where to start with your localisation efforts?

Let’s talk. With clients including the BBC, Facebook, Marks & Spencer, and many others, Kwintessential helps businesses in every industry reach their audiences in the language they prefer.

Set up a cost and commitment-free chat with an expert advisor or request a free, no-obligation quote today.

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