Whether you’re new to the website translation process or already have your website localized into multiple languages and are looking to add more, there are a variety of ways you can approach the task of selecting future languages.
A common, traditional approach is to look holistically at which markets are key to your company’s ongoing growth and proactively target them. For example, if a destination has a large number of inbound travelers from a specific country, then seizing that opportunity may be a no brainer. Or perhaps your company zeros in on a particular market for strategic reasons—an expanded hotel footprint, a route to a new destination, partnerships with local companies, etc.
These are perfectly valid approaches, but if you don’t have an obvious target market in mind or need help narrowing your options, online web tracking provides an excellent resource to make a data-driven decision.
The key piece of data you’ll want to look at is the language preference in your visitors’ browsers, which is tracked by default by your web analytics tools. The language preference is set by default by the language version of the browser or the operating system of the user’s computer, and can be personalized as needed. So if your visitor is in Spain, for example, the default browser language on their locally-acquired computer is Spanish for Spain. When they visit your website—regardless of whether it’s an existing Spanish-language version, the English version, or any other language—your analytics tools will track this metric.
By aggregating this data across your website(s), you can draw a number of important conclusions about your website visitors’ locations, language preferences, and purchasing habits that will help you make an informed decision about which language(s) to prioritize.
To start, we suggest aggregating language data across different language variations. For example, combine all French variants (European, Canadian, Algerian, etc.) when looking at the overall demand for French, since speakers of any of these variants would be able to understand the language. Later, you can use the variant data to determine which variant to localize into. However, there are some exceptions to this rule, notably Simplified and Traditional Chinese. Not all speakers can read the other version easily and it takes some practice, so often they will switch to English instead.
Equipped with this data, here are some important factors to consider:
- Market Culture and Habits: Expect traffic and conversion rates to improve in proportion to the language skills of a particular market. For example, markets like Scandinavia or the Netherlands where English levels are extremely advanced will have a lower ROI relative to markets that strongly favor the native language. Also, some markets have a much higher looker-to-booker ratio than others due to vacation time, spending power, payment-form limitations, or level of Internet use (booking online vs. offline).
- Average Booking Value: Look at what customers from these markets are spending per booking. High increases in traffic may not result in greater overall revenue if the visitors in that market do not spend as much per booking. Sometimes lower-traffic markets with higher booking values are the better choice.
- Bounce Rates: If a visitor opens your site and then immediately leaves because their preferred language is not available, that’s what we call a bounce. The bounce rate can sometimes be a good indicator of just how much of a market you may be missing out on.
- Hospitality Cancellation Data: Certain countries require visitors to have a standing travel booking in order to apply for a visa. As a result, bookings for these countries have a high-degree of cancellations or no-shows. For sites that do not require credit cards or do not immediately validate the cards, cancellations have been as high as 50%. Make sure you check these stats in your business analytics tools before making a decision.
Finally, it is important not to base your language choice on users’ IP addresses—that is, the physical location of the user. This is a common practice, but can cause companies to miss out on important factors such as multilingual countries, foreign-speaking residents, and the common practice of booking while already traveling.