Stronger Global Brands Have Websites in More Languages Than Their Less-profitable Competitors*

Spain. Spanish is the country's official national language, and spoken throughout the entire country. Nearly everyone in Spain can speak Spanish as either a first or a second language. In 2005, 89% of Spaniards spoke Spanish as their mother tongue, followed by Catalan / Valencian with 9%. Galician is spoken by 5%, and Basque by 0.9%.

Picture: Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex located in Granada, Andalusia, Spain. Photo: Baltic Media 

For eight years, independent market research firm Common Sense Advisory (CSA Research)** has studied the world’s most prominent websites to identify the MVPs of the global web. These business and consumer websites represent the biggest companies, most popular websites, and most valuable brands, based on the Forbes Global 2000 list, the Alexa Top 500 Global Websites, and the Interbrand 100 Best Brands. 
The combined lists contain brands from 25 countries, representing 24 industrial sectors and 59 vertical sub-industries. Of the 2,407 websites studied, 1,506 were multilingual sites averaging 9.2 languages each. 10% of the visited sites did not include English.

Manufactured products, from toothpaste to software programs, rely on global markets to leverage the maximum investment in research, design, production, and branding. And while the majority of the world’s largest brands have multilingual websites, 37% of the world’s most prominent websites are monolingual, making them unreachable to a large part of the internet population.

Data collected by CSA Research finds a strong correlation between a brand’s financial strength and the number of languages it makes its website available in. Adds lead analyst on the report, Ben Sargent, “Regardless of if we study broad measures of corporate success or narrow calculations of financial health, such as Earned Equity Growth, our research found striking correlations between performance and multilinguality. Whether translated from a source language or locally produced, content enables revenue and boosts profit. Companies that provide content in more languages generally do better than those that skimp on or avoid content localization.”

The findings are detailed in the firm’s report, “Global Website Assessment Index 2015,” which features dozens of tables and figures, including:
Five consumer-oriented sectors averaging more than 10 languages per website. Prominent companies in Household Goods, Computers, Pharmaceutical, Automotive, and Software maintain a web presence in the most languages, on average.

The cost of innovation drives globalization. Sub-sectors deploying the most languages include research and development (R&D) heavy Auto & Truck Manufacturers, Precision Healthcare Equipment, Computer Hardware, Software Products, and Pharmaceuticals.
Number of languages based on brand strength. The average brand value for Interbrand-ranked companies with 12-19 online languages was US$12 billion in 2014. Therefore, a company seeking to push its brand value over US$10 billion by 2018 should expect to manage 12 or more languages on its websites, while aggressive growth-stage companies should target 20 or more, including regional dialects for Spanish and English.

When looking across sectors, CSA Research’s GWAI study found that company size, website popularity, and brand value all show positive correlation to the number of languages found.

Companies ranked in the bottom 1,000 of the Forbes list averaged only 4.1 languages per website, while those in the top 50 fielded more than 17 on average. Larger corporations such as IBM, Santander, and Toyota as a group tend to be older and more established in global markets, compared to smaller companies, which are more likely to be younger.

Alexa’s top 100 sites offer a much higher count than those lower on the list. From Alibaba to Amazon, from Yahoo to Youm7, the more languages offered by a website, the more likely it is to appear at the top of the list. Many companies like Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn specifically used globalization strategies to become the dominant player in their space, breaking the rule that only older companies have lots of languages and rapidly taking market share away from previous leaders.
Although Interbrand lists only 100 brands, analysis shows a steep set of language-to-success ratios. Stronger brands like McDonald's and H&M (with 35 and 17 languages, respectively) posted more languages than weaker competitors such as Pizza Hut (19) and Gap (7).

*Source: CSA Research Global Website Assessment Index 2015 is available as a part of CSA Research membership.
**Common Sense Advisory is an independent market research company helping companies profitably grow their international businesses and gain access to new markets. It specializes in best practices for translation, localization, interpreting, globalization, and internationalization.