Digital transformation in business in the COVID-19 era: what role does localization play?
’Digital transformation’ is the process of embracing (more) technology to manage business activities, with the aim of achieving significant savings, minimizing errors and producing innovations. The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated digital transformation: lock-down and social distancing measures have forced the implementation of remote working in many businesses and caused the exponential growth of e-commerce and multimedia content. Many activities we never previously thought could operate online have, in fact, become virtual rather than cease altogether: e-learning, online events, courses and business in general. What is the role of languages in this new landscape?
Just a few months ago, conference call demos and online corporate training or business classes were considered the preserve of tech companies or young computer geeks. There is no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on everyday life, bringing about significant changes that are set to become the so-called ’new normal’. Yet it has also helped digital transformation move from exclusively being the tagline of businesses such as young start-ups and software houses. Our habits have changed, and it looks as though they are going to stay with us for a very long time, if not forever.
The experience of living through lock-down, and the consequent changes to daily habits—required to prevent the virus from spreading—have caused consumers to change their purchasing habit too. They have relied more on e-commerce, multimedia content, and online businesses, all of which gained customers—even the most mistrustful of consumers—once leaving the house began to be seen as a risky activity. According to a recent article by the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, consumers, apart from being more concerned than usual about their health and safety, have still not fully re-engaged with their out-of-home activities, and the switch towards digital and multichannel commerce is here to stay. To quote the title of an HBR article.
According to a study carried out by the digital transformation data authority eMarketer, in 2020, e-commerce and digital business remain a bright spot in this time of global uncertainty. Nine countries, led by the Philippines, Malaysia and Spain (the latter was particularly badly hit by the virus), are set to enjoy growth in excess of 20% in retail e-commerce sales this year. Digital transformation is definitely something even the smallest of businesses can no longer put on hold: with shopping and other interactions increasingly taking place online, having e-commerce or a website will be essential to interact with customers, who will choose online communication as their preferred way to interact with providers.
But this is not only true for e-commerce: remote ways of conducting business, training employees, and attending meetings or conferences are now the norm.
Now, in order to serve your customers in a global society and export internationally, you have to speak their own language—both literally and metaphorically. For businesses willing to go through digital transformation processes, COVID-19 has opened up a number of positive opportunities.
English language skills are a must in the corporate environment and for international communications. But English is no longer enough if businesses want to reach their global targets. Nimdzi Insights has carried out an internal project, known as ‘Project Underwear’, which demonstrates how language can be a game changer, affecting the behavior of buyers and clients worldwide. The work carried out by the market research company revolves around three key questions: How do people engage with and consume content online? What do they do if given the choice between English and their native language? Would they consume more if there were more content in their native language?
The investigation focuses on the concept of choice because, according to their findings, seven in ten users will always select their native language over English. The age or gender of the users is a factor, insofar as it supports the conclusion that language matters to all groups—users will select their native language irrespective of either of those two variables. So, English itself might not be enough to deliver international success, depending on how you define it. The English speakers interviewed also exhibited a similar attitude: 54% of English speakers would not buy from a website that is not in English; this figure increases to 63% if only US respondents are considered.
Language aside (but not too much), the choice between having a website localized in another language and managing digital marketing in that language (through blogs, social media content, SEO optimization, videos… and the list goes on) can make the difference when it comes to converting your prospects into brand ambassadors. Help and support from linguists who are also specialists in this field is essential for converting website visitors into leads and—potentially—customers.
Reach out to CPSL if you want to explore the opportunities offered by multilingual localization: a step towards the opportunities of the new normal.
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