UK exports beaten by the language barrier?

82% of European consumers say they're less likely to buy goods online if they're not sold in their own language. So the UK's web retailers should swap their shopping carts for un chariot...

by Dave Waller
Last Updated: 17 May 2011
Eurobarometer, the public opinion-monitoring wing of the European Commission, questioned more than 13,000 people in 27 EU countries and found that only 18% of internet users buy online in a language besides their own ‘frequently or all the time’. Meanwhile 42% said they never do so at all.

That’s fair enough when you think about it (when was the last time you bought something online in Spanish?). And you may imagine news like this wouldn’t trouble UK companies, which are surely both web-savvy and globally-focused when it comes to securing new business. But that doesn’t appear to be the case. ‘Last month only two British companies made a list of the 100 best websites for global and multilingual visitors,’ said Christian Arno, MD of Lingo24, ‘and they were placed humiliatingly at 92 and 93.’

Elsewhere research group Common Sense Advisory found that English-only websites fail to reach even 25% of the world’s internet users. So it seems UK companies are missing some golden opportunities - at a time when the Government is desperate to find any way it can to boost the nation’s slowing export recovery.

Of course, language isn’t the sole problem here. European trade is a costly and difficult process for small businesses in the UK. That’s why it’s much easier for smaller outfits in, say, America to expand, compared with their counterparts in Europe; the latter have to deal with myriad legal and logistical issues of trading across borders, of which language is just one.  

But when everyone’s struggling to compete, it’s clearly important to think about every possible angle that may help get your product or service out to the biggest possible audience. Simple comme bonjour, n’est pas? Or maybe not.
Economy Misc

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

Leadership lessons from Jürgen Klopp

The Liverpool manager exemplifies ‘the long win’, based not on results but on clarity of...

How to get a grip on stress

Once a zebra escapes the lion's jaws, it goes back to grazing peacefully. There's a...

A leadership thought: Treat your colleagues like customers

One minute briefing: Create a platform where others can see their success, says AVEVA CEO...

The ignominious death of Gordon Gekko

Profit at all costs is a defunct philosophy, and purpose a corporate superpower, argues this...

Gender bias is kept alive by those who think it is dead

Research: Greater representation of women does not automatically lead to equal treatment.

What I learned leading a Syrian bank through a civil war

Louai Al Roumani was CFO of Syria's largest private retail bank when the conflict broke...