Over the next ten years, as many as four out of five new outbound travelers may kick off their travels from one of today’s newly developed and emerging countries. Travelers already visit more than 100 websites to research and book transportation, accommodation, and local services and activities before finalizing a typical trip. They contribute thousands of entries to TripAdvisor and other user review sites every minute in a variety of languages. With increasing pressure from robust local and regional competitors, travel and leisure companies can’t afford not to invest in appropriate levels of adaptation and localization for their content, code and services.
However, executives require hard data before backing an investment proposal. What criteria should you use to make these budgetary decisions? Here are examples of the four classes of essential data that travel and leisure companies should consider to boost language support.
Begin by visualizing customers’ current and preferred localized experiences with your organization. As travel and leisure consumers, partners or third-party suppliers, these consumers’ journeys may include awareness, discovery, attraction, purchase, use and advocacy. Identify possible gaps by comparing the current journey to global customer journey maps for each stage.
Identify the at-risk audiences in principal local markets — the ones who aren’t spending much time on a mobile app or those who disappear at checkout. As a first step, analyze source language proficiency to develop a general feel for where your strategic markets land on this continuum. Figure 1 compares the preference for localized product information to confidence in English use among millennials in eight countries. Note that if you author content in a language other than English, you should expect substantially lower proficiency than these figures indicate.
The more time potential travelers spend on your website, the more likely they are to take action. Extended time leads to greater engagement, like registrations and follow-on purchases, which increases the likelihood of returning for more interaction and buying. When asked to compare the time they spend on English-language sites versus those in their own language, 45% among the 1,217 millennials we surveyed stated that they either spent less time on English-language sites or didn’t visit them at all (Figure 2). Japanese (82%), German (64%), Russian (57%) and Chinese (55%) millennials spent the least amount of time on English-language properties.
For the three areas we asked about — how often respondents purchased from English language websites, how inclined they were to buy a product with localized information and the likelihood of their only purchasing from sites in their own language — close to 50% of participants stated a preference for a user experience in their first language.
Why does this data matter? While potential travelers may consider nonlocalized products and offers, their purchasing intent is much less certain when the language on the site doesn’t match the one with which they’re most comfortable.
Demand for translation continues after the initial sale. The at-risk audiences in the area of customer care rose to 70% when asked whether they were more likely to purchase the same brand again if the after-sales care was in their language. Customer care can include user communities and travel support, plus a range of materials and programs meant to drive continuing engagement, such as loyalty programs, chat, FAQs, Instagram and other social media channels.
Market opportunity by language
After analyzing customers’ current and preferred localized experience with your organization and identifying possible at-risk audiences in local markets, it’s time to determine market opportunities by language. Starting with an overall view of the data will indicate the markets that may generate the most revenue from new or additional language support, in addition to those to promote for strategic reasons. Then consider how to balance the breadth and depth of languages to be delivered.
Tier 1 languages currently address 90% of global online purchasing power. CSA Research tracks hundreds of languages and how they’re used on web and mobile sites. We divide them into four tiers according to their share of online purchasing power and online audience. These tiers can help balance feedback from web and mobile analytics, partners and customer support, so you can build the case to offer — or not — a language or group of languages. Today, you can reach 90% of the market with just 15 languages (Figure 3). It takes another 17 languages to reach 97% and 24 more to achieve 99% of the online marketplace.
Localization breadth versus depth
To balance breadth (the number of languages you translate) versus depth (how much content you translate in each language), CSA Research recommends focusing on marketing and branding content first, tackling social media next, analyzing how deep the competition goes and aiming for breadth over depth.
Benchmarking data for competitors
Refine conclusions by benchmarking what your organization has planned against what the competition is doing both within your industry and in related industries — especially considering local competition already creating and delivering content in preferred languages. Bolster your case visually by showing screenshot comparisons between your firm and your competitors to underscore where your company is ahead and behind. Figure 4 shows a data cut for top social networks and the average number of languages and social links per site for the travel and leisure industry.
Longitudinal studies from CSA Research show that the amounts invested by companies in language support and related initiatives are miniscule, representing far less than 1% of total revenue even though these initiatives support 20% or more in international revenue. So, articulate the existing investment and ROI stories with conviction. Communicate with confidence how localization contributes to your firm’s financial success by increasing customer loyalty in local markets. And remind your audience of the essential role that your team plays in supporting the generation of international revenue, along with any domestic revenue from localized products, services and content.