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Marketers in the Emirates ‘lost in translation’

Lost in translation is costing big bucks for the UAE

Language is the essence of communication but as the CEO of Dakwak points out - businesses don't pay enough attention to that.

December 12, 2012 4:26 by



It is no doubt that the Internet has broken down global barriers in business and trade but why is it that many companies still find it almost impossible to cash in on the trillions of dollars worth of online wallets around the world? There is more than one theory – and speaking to Waheed Barghouthi, CEO of Dakwak – adds another to the list. He says that marketers in the United Arab Emirates are lost in translation, literally. And that there is an enormous black hole they are wandering around in.

The chief of the online translation company says that research proves that ‘85 per cent of consumers are more inclined to buy a product when confronted with information in their own language, and 54 per cent say this is more important than the actual price’.

Now Kipp is no professional marketer but it does make sense that an online customer would be – if anything – at more ease surfing through a website in his or her own language. The question is, if the potential is so enormous why are so many ignoring it then?

Firstly, why do you think that businesses don’t invest enough into languages?

Businesses have the perception that website translation and localisation requires a lot of resources and high budgets, they are afraid to dig into that field as they believe it’s an endless process and that it requires a lot of technical and operational involvement especially when it comes to ongoing website translation. Dakwak helps companies of varying sizes and budgets to expand their business into international markets; it’s the only software which gives marketers complete control over their translated websites.

Considering the diversity of the Middle East, isn’t having English enough to survive?

Businesses these days are not seeking survival, they want to expand and grow. There is enormous potential for businesses to maximise sales by creating localised content, the internet has removed boundaries and made it easier for companies to embark on global trading.  Using online translation software to remove language barriers can help change a business’s reach, fortune and exposure to a wider market.

How does offering other languages increase sales?

According to recent surveys done by Common Sense Advisory, 85% of internet consumers require to see information about the product in their native language before making a purchase order. Another survey that solidifies this case highlights that only 18% of European internet users buy from websites in foreign languages. That said, we believe translating and localising websites into different languages is definitely very important to increase revenues even if the percentage of increase is relatively small.

How would you advise companies to go about adopting new languages – in terms of investment and phases of implementation?

It’s a pretty straight forward process; it starts with researching which languages are the most relevant for their product/website in terms of traffic sources. They can then translate their website to those languages using machine translation and track the traffic coming on those selected languages for a short period of time, for three months for example, and decide accordingly which of these languages should be professionally translated to enhance the user experience and increase conversions, and which aren’t attracting traffic and should be replaced with other languages.

Specifically for the GCC, many major websites have both English and Arabic, is that enough in your view?

It is greatly dependent on the nature of the product or service; in the case where it is a regional or international product, expanding into more languages should be a priority. For example, French would be important for any business targeting the MENA region. The other case would be businesses in the GCC with a local product or service; adding more languages would be more of an added value and would enhance users’ trust in the website more than making a direct impact on the conversion rate.

Do you think if more businesses adopt international languages in the UAE, it would have a strong and immediate effect on investment?

Yes indeed, businesses investing in more languages especially in a country of diverse cultures and nationalities like the UAE, will directly impact their revenues and sales as it will ensure reaching and communicating with all potential customers in their native language.

According to his statistics, a $30 trillion internet sales black hole is being lost in translation because marketers in the United Arab Emirates are not localising their websites for different countries. He adds that adopting eleven languages could theoretically reach 85 percent of the world’s population. Now, eleven languages seems a bit excessive for Kipp but perhaps that’s where the future is headed.



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