BLOG A TransPerfect World


Global Business 09.30.15 BLOG 

The Importance of Language in Global E-Commerce

By Julian Dimery, Global Director of Business Development

Language in Global E-Commerce

The Importance of Language in Global E-Commerce

The ever-rising tide of globalization means that today’s organizations are being driven to expand beyond their boundaries, providing goods and services to a growing number of countries and communities around the world. Here are some facts about the explosion of cross-border e‑commerce:

  • The United States is the leading destination for online shoppers buying across borders, followed by China, the UK, and Germany.
  • More than 900 million consumers—45% of all online shoppers—will purchase products internationally on the web by 2020.
  • Shoppers in the Asia-Pacific region will account for 48% of cross-border online purchases in 2020, with more than 200 million coming from China—the most of any country.
  • Latin America will grow the fastest in cross-border consumer online purchasing, with purchases increasing more than 40% annually from 2015 to 2020.

So the ability to communicate globally is now a make-or-break proposition for global retailers. While organizations that excel at multilingual e-commerce are well-positioned to become the next generation of industry leaders, those who decline to offer in-language communications, or who do so inadequately, may risk limiting overseas business or losing it entirely.

The fact is, the vast majority of global internet retail customers do not speak English or strongly prefer to shop in their own language. According to a recent Forrester report:

  • In Europe, 42% of online users say they never shop online in any language other than their own. Even in the Netherlands, where English-language learning is ubiquitous in schools, 50% of adults who have shopped online in the past three months agree that they only shop on websites in their native Dutch.
  • In Canada—where most US brands first venture when going international—34% of online shoppers say a French-language site is somewhat or very important to them while shopping online. In Quebec, this number jumps to 64%. 
  • In some of the fastest-growing online retail markets, such as China and Brazil, e-commerce is now attracting a much broader demographic of shoppers, many of whom aren’t comfortable or proficient in English. In fact, 95% of online consumers in China indicated a greater comfort level with websites in their own language.

A brand’s ability to effectively communicate with global audiences goes hand in hand with its success in monetizing new markets. By reducing language and cultural barriers, customers feel included and more comfortable (aside from just being able to understand a brand’s voice and vision), which leads to conversions. Local language communication has now transformed from a secondary consideration (“the language afterthought syndrome”) to one of the basic requirements for delivering a product or service to market.


eMarketer, “International Cross-Border Ecommerce: A Country-by-Country Breakdown of Consumer Behaviors and Preferences,” Feb. 25, 2015
Internet Retailer, “Almost half of global web consumers will purchase across borders by 2020,” Frank Tong, June 16, 2015
Forrester Research, “Market Overview: Language Service Providers 2013,” Peter Sheldon and Lily Varon, June 20, 2013


A TransPerfect World – In Your Inbox!

Stay in the know! Sign up below to receive TransPerfect blog posts right in your inbox, so you never have to miss the latest thought leadership from our industry experts.


Select Your Language

The Americas Europe Africa & Middle East Asia Pacific