In the mid 1990s, approximately 80 percent of all online content was in English – but less than a decade later, this percentage has dropped by almost half. About 45 percent of current online content is in the English language.
According to the Google Consumer Barometer, English-speaking online shoppers experience more difficulty with foreign websites than any other language group surveyed. The English speakers surveyed reported that they often come across content that is either not translated at all, or that it is poorly translated.
An average of 41 percent of online shoppers in Europe, Asia-Pacific, the Americas, the Middle East, and Africa report difficulties with translation when shopping online, compared to an average of 63 percent of English-speaking online shoppers from Canada, the United States, Ireland, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia.
With global online users now making up almost half of the world’s population, and only roughly 18 percent of the world’s population speaks English, it stands to reason that more and more online content is now catering to languages other than English – but are these non-English websites just not translating into English at all? The answer is complicated.
Study after study continues to show that online shoppers prefer to buy products and services in their own language. While they do not mind reading, conducting research, or even browsing in other languages, when it comes to a formal purchase, they prefer buying from websites that cater to their native tongue. High-level translation and localization is more important now than ever before in ecommerce for businesses that wish to effectively engage on a global scale, and companies that either don’t bother to translate their content, or who only minimally invest, could be missing out on a significant percentage of customers.
Although recent studies have shown that English-speaking ecommerce websites in general seem to be translating into diverse languages, such as Swedish, Spanish, Arabic, and Chinese, somehow the same isn’t happening in reverse and the English-speaking population of online shoppers is feeling neglected.
It is believed that in just a couple of years, shoppers in the Asian-Pacific region – and more specifically China – will account for almost half of cross-border online purchases. Another market to watch closely is Latin America whose cross-border online purchasing is expected to increase annually by more than 40 percent over the next few years.
It would seem then, that ecommerce marketers may be more swayed to invest in translation and localization services that cater to these growing language markets than they are to invest in English-language translation and localization which seems to be fading in the sea of multilingual ecommerce. But English-language consumers need not really fear. There are plenty of ecommerce sites that cater to the English language and offer a diverse selection of products and services.
Several studies over the past five years have tried to figure out just how many English-speaking ecommerce sites there are – and the verdict is still out. Some studies believe it is roughly just over 100,000 while other studies suggest it could be as high as 600,000, or even substantially higher. There are online stores popping up every day, including mini-online stores like those offered through Etsy which makes it fairly difficult to determine a near-accurate number.
Another complication when estimating how many English-speaking online stores there are, is the fact that many ecommerce sites operate with multiple fronts – so, are they considered a single store, or do they represent several stores? However, when it comes right down to it, English-speaking online consumers really have nothing to complain about. There are English-speaking online stores that cater to virtually every want and need, offering the exact item on everyone’s wish list – yes, even those cute, pink and fuzzy, faux-fur slippers you’ve always wanted.
However, no matter how you look at it, there are plenty of English-speaking online stores to go around. There are online stores that cater to home appliances, sporting goods and outdoor activities, fashion wear, health and wellness products and services, hardware goods, food, baby products, and an almost endless list of other goodies. English-speaking online shoppers can spend hours reading through English-language content and sorting through English-labeled products and services on display on eBay, Amazon, Shopify, Walmart, Target, BestBuy, Costco, Newegg, Overstock, Macy’s, the Gap, Apple, QVC, and on, and on, and on.
In fact, W3 Techs, a company that provides web technology surveys, estimates that out of the top 10 million websites, 52 percent cater to the English language.
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