Consumers, Brands, Have Different Expectations for Online Translation


Consumers, Brands, Have Different Expectations for Online Translation

TechJournal South – August 15, 2011

We hear a lot of talk about the global nature of doing business on the Internet, but executives of companies doing global business online may not realize how important it is to provide good translation services. Results of a two-art globalization TransPerfect survey conducted among execs of internationally focused companies show a striking gap between the minimal value some brands attribute to quality localization and translation and the importance shoppers place on these elements.

While only 19 percent of executives surveyed called translating information online a high priority, 63 percent of the consumers who participated in the survey said they are more likely to buy from a website available in their native languages. More than 200 executives and shoppers completed the TransPerfect survey. Among them were residents of the United States, France, Germany, Sweden, Japan and numerous other nations.

Aware of localization, but rank translation a low priority

The companies participating in the survey ranged from fewer than 500 employees to more than 5,000, but the overall majority ranked translation of Web content as a low priority. While few executives labeled localization activities as critical to globalization success, respondents also admitted they did not know how important language was to their conversion rates. A startling 64 percent said they were “unsure” whether translated websites have or would have a significant impact on sales globally.

Just as an experiment, you might want to see how Google Translate, say, renders your page in a variety of languages. If your firm relies on that or other browser-based translations, it may surprise you. They do not render idiomatic expressions very well, so that a phrase such as “Do you like good company?” in English might be translated as “Do you like good corporation? (a real example).

Among the other findings were:

  • Seventy-three percent of consumers surveyed said they encounter e-commerce websites that are not available in their native languages.
  • Sixty-three percent said they would be more likely to buy from websites that were available in their native languages.
  • More than half said when left to their own devices, they either try to translate material themselves, rely on a browser-based translation application, or terminate their shopping sessions.
  • Nearly 68 percent said they “always” or “sometimes” encounter website translations that are not correct or are confusing because the translations lacked an understanding of the culture.

“We were surprised by the dichotomy between executive and consumer feedback to the survey,” said Liz Elting, CEO and co-founder of TransPerfect. “Brands seem to think any level of website translation is adequate, but they aren’t measuring the effect of poor localization on sales. Meanwhile, shoppers clearly feel differently. As numerous consumer respondents told us, idioms and cultural awareness are key factors in the quality of an e-commerce website and in their purchasing decisions.”


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