Plan for the Future Now: Must-Have Languages for Global Enterprises
Last year, CSA Research investigated 137 languages with measurable internet activity to identify those with the top online economic potential. We divided languages into four tiers based on the share of the “world online wallet” they commanded. This examination revealed that as internet penetration, populations, and GDP rise, the number of tongues needed to reach a given percentage of the market also increases and the mix changes. Recently, we used economic, population, and technology forecasts to predict where the market will be in 2022 and 2027. Our projections can help enterprises plan for new opportunities and LSPs develop technology and skills to support them.
Among the key findings for several years is that you need an ever-increasing number of languages to reach a given share of the online market. This means it will take a greater localization effort to be competitive globally. For example, last year you would have needed 14 languages to access 90% of internet-accessible GDP (eGDP), but in 2027 you will need 17. Similarly, accessing 97% of the market takes 31 today, but will require 37 in 2027.
Our analysis revealed that much of this growth comes from markets in Asia that are in the early stages of hypergrowth. The opportunities offered by smaller markets may not seem like much today, but a long-term strategic approach reveals them to be important: Although languages like Indonesian, Malay, Hindi, and Filipino do not account for much of the online market today, they will continue to climb rapidly up the rankings. They will deliver long-term opportunity for enterprises that invest now and stay the course despite the high churn they experience on enterprise websites.
As the number of languages needed to access potential markets grows, English’s dominant position as the native lingo of the internet is slowly losing ground. Our research shows that customers are far more likely to purchase products in their own language, and individuals in growing markets will expect to have access to quality content that they can read. Although the days when you could rely on the majority of Internet users to prefer English are receding into the past, it will remain the most important tongue for participation at the global level. It is also almost always the primary vehicle of wider commerce for large enterprises that conduct business in any other language, with all but a handful supporting it.
If you are responsible for enterprise language strategy, an understanding of demographic trends and the opportunities that they offer can help you plan for your future and find the resources that can support you. If you run an LSP, preparing for these same changes can help you maintain and cultivate your market position and proactively respond to your clients’ needs before they even know they have them.
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