Can't read, won't buy

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 Based on a survey of 8,709 global consumers in 29 countries in Europe, Asia, North America, and South America, CSA Research found that 76 percent of online shoppers prefer to buy products with information in their native language. 40 percent state that they will never buy from websites in other languages.

These findings, and hundreds of other online consumer buying preferences, are detailed in “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy – B2C,” a new report by independent market research firm CSA Research.

As a continuation of the firm’s long-running “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy” series, CSA Research again worked with survey specialist Kantar. To gather the verified and comprehensive sample, Kantar vetted 31,933 consumers around the globe, eliminating thousands via its patented Honesty Detector software, filters, and trap questions to yield the verified 8,709 responses. The results, which were analyzed by CSA Research, provide reliable data to make the ROI case for delivering localized content throughout the customer journey.

The 29-nation survey, which included Brazil, China, Egypt, France, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Spain, Russia, and Turkey, was conducted in the official language of each country, plus Spanish in the U.S. Specifically, the research assessed online language preferences and their subsequent impact on purchasing decisions. Factors including nationality, English-language proficiency, global brand recognition, and the ability to conduct transactions in local currencies were included in the study.

The findings of this study have great significance to global businesses. “There is a longstanding assumption that enough people feel comfortable using English online, especially when buying high tech or expensive products,” comments Dr. Donald A. DePalma, CSA Research’s Chief Research Officer.  “Our 2020 findings show that if a company chooses to not localize the buying experience they risk losing 40% or more of the total addressable market—the consumers that prefer selecting and buying products at local-language sites. While they may want the products or experiences on the English-language site, most would rather think, act, and buy in their own language.”

The research also shows that nationality increases the demand for local-language content in online transactions. In particular, the percentage of those who buy only at local-language websites in Germany leads the study with the largest amount of consumers at 57%. Six other national samples voiced more than 50% agreement with this preference. Additional top-level findings include: 

  • 65% prefer content in their language, even if it’s poor quality
  • 67% tolerate mixed languages on a website
  • 73% want product reviews in their language, if nothing else
  • 76% prefer products with information in their own language
  • 66% use online machine translation (MT)
  • 40% will not buy from websites in other languages

Additional findings and best practices detailed in the 100-page report include:

  • Local-language support creates stickier customer relationships. Seventy-five percent of respondents say that they’re more likely to purchase the same brand again if customer care is in their language. This preference is strongest among those with less competence in English, but even 60% of those who are most confident in reading English favor having customer care in their own language.
  • Consumers prefer products with information in their own language. Given the choice between buying two similar products, 76% of respondents will choose the one with information in their language. The number jumps to 89% of those with no English-language competence. Factoring in nationality, respondents from five Asia-Pacific countries lead the charge for local language content – participants from Taiwan (94%), Korea (92%), China (92%), Japan (90%), and Indonesia (88%). The most tolerant is Romania, with 48% satisfied with information in English.
  • Price matters – many consumers prefer lower cost over information in their own language. Given the choice between buying similar products, 66% will choose the less expensive one even if it does not have information in their languageThat number drops as their English-language competence declines – just 48% of those with no English-language competence will trade understanding for price.
  • A strong global brand can heavily influence purchasing decisions. A full 69% of global consumers will choose such major brands over those with information in their own language. Vietnamese constitute the nationality that is most infatuated with global brands (85% agree or strongly agree with the statement). Those least won over are the Japanese (50%).

There is more to cross-border purchasing behaviors than language. Privacy, payment methods, delivery, and customs are major components of a global strategy and can affect the customer online experience.

“Considering the data from our survey, there should be no question about localizing your website and product information if you want to sell more goods or services to global customers,” concludes Dr. DePalma. “Localization improves customer experience and increases engagement in the brand dialogue. It should be a rigorously planned and executed business strategy for any company looking to grow internationally.”

Recently released research, “ROI of Customer Engagement," factors the 2020 “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy – B2C” data into the customer journey, preliminary data from the upcoming B2B report, and the impact of language on total addressable market (TAM).

The reports are published as part of the firm’s syndicated research membership. For more information, visit or contact sales(at)