Project Underwear: A Study of Online Buyer Behavior and How Language Affects User Choice

Report by Gabriel Karandysovsky. The original report was published in June 2020. It has been updated with fresh data in July 2023.

E-commerce is doing well these days, and it has been doing well since before the global pandemic. The period between 2020 and 2022 may forever be etched into our memories for the negatives, but it was also a period of unparalleled growth in the digital arena. It may prove to be that such growth will never be duplicated, but the underlying growth factors are undeniably still there. The number of people accessing the Internet worldwide continues trending upwards. What’s more, people’s online content consuming habits are shifting towards mobile devices they can use on the go. Social media is a mainstay of everyone’s lives, to the point where we are spending multiple hours per day scanning our feeds. Time people spend online is a hot commodity that is ripe for the picking, and businesses can leverage it to gain exposure, raise brand awareness, and, ultimately, boost their global sales.

A number of reports put global e-commerce revenue for 2022 beyond the USD 5 trillion threshold, which represents double-digit annual growth. In 2025, it is expected to pass the USD 7 trillion mark.

However, none of this will matter if you do not factor language into your global expansion plans. Nimdzi’s data show that 9 out of 10 global users will ignore your product if it’s not in their native language.

Indeed, a conservative single-language strategy may no longer be a valid way of doing business in our increasingly interconnected world. That is, unless a business has a strategy focused solely on its domestic market, and assuming that market is limited to a single language.

The Underwear Effect: the role of language in user decision-making

The Project Underwear report builds on the concept developed by Nimdzi's co-founder, Renato Beninatto, that consuming content, and communicating in our own native language is as private and personal as it gets—and what is personal is what ultimately drives buying decisions.  

That is the Underwear Effect, the term to describe situations where consumers are making their buying decisions during their (almost) most private moments, with their mobile phone in hand wearing nothing but their underwear. And what does cling to a person even more closely than his or her undergarments? Why, their language, of course.

This is why it is paramount for businesses to understand the importance of getting their message across to users in their native language, instead of only in English. That is the underlying raison d’être of this publication—to confirm or disprove the Underwear Effect, country by country, on a global scale.

The methodology of the Project Underwear report

Codename: Project Underwear, Nimdzi’s internal name for this study, is one of the most ambitious projects Nimdzi has undertaken to date. This is a global project, with surveys and data collection executed across more than 70 countries. The basis of our work is an end-user survey consisting of 25 questions, that we translated into 66 languages and carried out with native speakers living in those countries.

Our aim is to demonstrate how language affects buying behavior. Therefore, having localized surveys to eliminate any bias was always going to be our starting point.

The resulting sample size is 9,209 individual replies, with data on the respondent's language, gender, age, and primary occupation, that allow for further segmentation of user preferences. The data collected is not brand-, product- or service-specific. We will be concentrating on macro trends when it comes to shopping habits and buyer language preferences, before answering the following questions:

  • How do people engage with and consume content online?
  • How do they act if given the choice between English and their native language?
  • Would they consume more if there were more content in their native language?

Project Underwear countries

Given the enormous quantity of data Nimdzi collected across a multitude of countries, we will be presenting to you a high-level analysis of how users interact with products and services online.

It is our aim to give businesses the answers which will aid them in shaping their globalization strategy.

Information contained in this report

  1. TL;DR
  2. Project Underwear data
  3. Localization matters, but in different ways to different people
  4. Traditional localization markets vs the next frontier
  5. Buying online vs brick-and-mortar
    1. Houston, we’re going mobile
    2. #theClassics or what else should businesses watch out for?
  6. Language preferences of online buyers
    1. What happens when users have a choice?
    2. Shopping in English, and the absence of choice
    3. And what about the native English speakers?
  7. Go for the native language or go home

This has been an extended preview.

The full Project Underwear report can be accessed by Nimdzi Partners. The full publication goes into detail on online user buying behavior, language preferences of buyers, regional and language-level sentiment, and offers a snapshot of the data your organization can freely download and use. If you are not a Nimdzi Partner, contact us.

This report has been researched and written by Nimdzi's Head of Content, Gabriel Karandysovsky. If you'd like to learn more about Project Underwear, user language preferences, and buying behavior, reach out to Gabriel at [email protected].

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