Common Sense Advisory Releases Report on Global Consumer Online Buying Preferences, Showing the Impact of Language, Nationality, and Brand Recognition

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Survey of more than 2,400 consumers in eight countries reveals that language proficiency and nationality matter to consumers when buying your products and services online

Most people prefer to buy online in their own language, and, in fact, the majority of people in some countries will pay more for a product with information in their own language. These findings, and other global online consumer buying preferences, were outlined in a new report released by independent research firm Common Sense Advisory (

In the report “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy – Why Language Matters on Global Websites” (Sept. ’06) the firm analyzes the online global buying preferences of more than 2,400 consumers from eight non-Anglophone countries in Europe, Asia, and South America. Specifically, the research was conducted to assess online language preferences and its subsequent impact on purchasing decisions. Factors including nationality, English-language proficiency, brand, and the ability to conduct transactions in foreign currencies were included in the study.

The eight-nation survey, which included Brazil, China, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, Spain, and Turkey, was completed in July and August 2006 by a company specializing in consumer panels around the world. All surveys were conducted in the official language of each country. The detailed analysis was conducted by Common Sense Advisory and the data collection project underwritten by Wordbank (, Lionbridge (, and Idiom Technologies, (

Lead analyst on the report, Don DePalma, addresses the significance of the findings to global businesses: “Many firms still debate whether it makes business sense for them to globalize their online marketing, online commerce sites, and call centers. There is a longstanding assumption that enough people on the web feel comfortable using English, especially when buying high-tech or expensive products. Nonetheless, research dating back to 1998 indicates a high propensity for people to buy in their own language. But until now, there has been no large-scale behavioral study of consumers to validate this preference.”

The data collected substantiates this theory and reveals that more than half (52.4%) of consumers buy only at websites where information is presented in their language. The report also reveals that nationality increases the demand for local-language content in online transactions.. The percentage of those who buy only at local-language websites jumps to more than 60 percent of consumers in France and Japan. French and Russian consumers are four times less likely than Spaniards to buy from an English-language site.

Other findings from the report include:

Can’t read, won’t buy

· The report breaks out results by the level of English competence among those surveyed. Those with no-or-low English spent most or all of their time on sites in their own language (88.3%), but that number dropped to 60.6 percent for those who had some ability in English.

· Just 10 percent of the low-or-no English participants make most or all of their online purchases from Anglophone websites, compared to 37 percent of the English-speaking group. Even for those who can read English, more than 60 percent prefer buying from sites in their own language.

· Those respondents with no-or-low English were six times more likely to “rarely or never buy from English-language websites” than their countrymen who felt more confident in their English skills..

Brand matters more than quality of translation

· “I would purchase a global brand with a good reputation without product information in my own language in preference to a little-known brand that does provide product information in my language.” Among the no-or-low English respondents, 55.9 percent agreed or strongly agreed that they valued a global brand more than language. For those able to deal with English, 64.1 percent attached more worth to the global brand than to the lesser but local brand.

· More than half of the no-or-low English respondents (60.3%) preferred poor translation from English into their local language than none at all.

Most will pay more for products with information in their own language

· Common Sense Advisory proposed that “when faced with the choice of buying two similar products, I am more likely to purchase the one that is less expensive even if it does not have product information in my own language.” In the total sample, 43.8 percent would opt for the cheaper product over the one with their language. However, 64.3 percent of the no-or-low English group would pay more for information they could read in their own language. Those with English proficiency were split nearly 50/50 on this proposition.

· The no-or-low English segment was four times more likely to buy products offered and documented in their own languages (82.5% agreed), while 65.5 percent of the English-proficient respondents favored local-language products.

· Two thirds of Brazilians (66.7%) and Russians (68.8%) agreed with this proposition, indicating a more adamant stance of having materials presented in their language rather than paying a lower price.

· Chinese (50.3%) and French (50.2%), however, led the pack of value shoppers, both opting for the lower-priced product over information presented in their natal language.

Who should read the report?

Organizations doing business internationally; interested in building a business case for website globalization, targeted marketing, and product localization; or providing the tools and services for e-commerce will benefit from downloading the report. A summary of the findings is available now at or at any of the underwriters’ websites.

About Common Sense Advisory, Inc.

Common Sense Advisory, Inc. is an independent research firm committed to objective research and analysis of the business practices, services, and technology for translation and localization. The firm also provides hands-on consulting and training to global business teams. For more information about the firm’s global consulting programs or research membership programs, visit or call +1 978-275-0500.

About Report Lead Analyst, Don DePalma

After initiating the coverage of content management in 1996 at Forrester Research, DePalma led subsequent reports on CMS, where he expanded his coverage to include organizational issues, the need for integral globalization and the evolution of corporate platforms. Author of the seminal research report on globalization, “Strategies for Global Sites,” published by Forrester Research in 1998, DePalma also wrote Business Without Borders: A Strategic Guide to Global Marketing, published in 2002 by John Wiley & Sons. DePalma is the founder and president of Common Sense Advisory.

Note to Editors: Figures and charts available reflecting individual purchasing preferences globally and by country based on English-language proficiency.

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