Most businesses realize that they are simply a click away from any corner of the globe. Well, actually two if you include the Yahoo! search a potential customer does to access your shopping cart. What most businesses, unfortunately, do not realize though, is that their shopping cart is struggling to make it to the checkout counter. Bill Dunlap, managing director of Global Reach, Inc. notes that “for every $ 2 million a site is doing in domestic sales, they’re leaving another $ 1 million on the table in international sales if they’re not making themselves easily available.”

To paraphrase the above, let me draw on a quote from Willy Brandt. The former West German chancellor is reported to have once said: “If I’m selling to you, I speak your language. If I’m buying, dann muessen Sie Deutsch sprechen (then you must speak German).”

In economics this is referred to as opportunity cost – the cost of something in terms of an opportunity foregone. The opportunity cost of not speaking “German” is a whopping 50%! This simple truth is supported by statistics.

Donald A. DePalma reported in a study conducted for Forrester Research that “Visitors linger twice as long as they do at English-only URLs; business buyers are three times more likely to buy if addressed in their own language; and customer service costs drop when instructions are displayed in the user’s language.” (Donald A. DePalma, Strategies for Global Sites, 1998).

Another Forrester Research report, quoted in an article titled “Reasons for Success in International E-Commerce” ( provides statistics that indicate “over 55% of the online world accesses the Internet from countries where English is not the native language.”

The message is loud and clear: Do not assume that there is no reason to translate your marketing materials or that English is used in other countries! To be sure, English is the lingua franca of the world, and many people do have the ability to read English. But, faced with a choice, would you pull out your wallet for a company that caters to your needs in your non-native language, or your native language?

If translation and localization is not part of your international e-commerce strategy, then you may be leaving money on the table!

And, if you see the truth in this message, you have a couple of options available: you can develop an in-house translation capability, or you can commission a professional translation service to translate your marketing materials. Developing an in-house translation capability is prohibitively expensive, not to mention that it is a long term effort. An appropriate analogy to illustrate this point that of an IT department.

So, unless you have deep pockets, buying translation is the way to go.

Buying translation, however, can be overwhelming with all the technical jargon, and frustrating with all the endless marketing hype and “mission statements” that are thrown at you. Fact is, the basics of purchasing translation are easy. Read on. Your starting point should be the clarification of your translation project requirements. Consider:

Whether your marketing materials are for internal consumption (including partners) or external consumption?
Whether cost is more important or quality is more important?
What is the time frame for your project?
What are your ongoing (long-term) professional translation service needs?

By clarifying project requirements, you are establishing the framework to answer the 2 most important questions that will determine the success of your translation project. Namely, what is the right type of translation, and what is the right professional translation service for your translation project?

Ensure the success of your translation project – Read this Japanese Translation Guide.

More Translate Articles

Leave a comment