Multilingual Customer Experience / Time to Assess Your Touchpoints 

Communication is important to any business. At some point, you have to be able to talk to your customers.  

But are you and your customers talking the same language? We live in a multicultural world and, unless your business specifically targets an island tribe that hasn’t encountered civilization, have you overlooked a potential new revenue stream. 

We know times are tough right now, so we wanted to spark some thoughts on ways to expand your business in a practical way.  

So why are we talking about this, exactly? Because 78% of customers are more likely to buy products if information is provided in their native language. This, combined with the general multicultural nature of most countries, means that even domestic markets often aren’t fully explored. 

Many companies have made efforts, of course, but we’d struggle to say that many have gone far enough.

Multilingual Problems in a Cross-Channel World 

Let’s start with a real-world example… 

InPost in Poland, for example, utilizes a touch screen at each pickup point, available in both English and Polish. This is great for the almost 40,000 English-speaking residents (source) but… 

The corresponding app is only available in Polish. And yet InPost is a huge, successful company that has operations in the UK… so the English-equivalent text for this app already exists.  

This is not an isolated problem. Rossman, McDonalds and Zabka all also have similar differences between the in-store touchpoints and the corresponding mobile application.  

And neither is this problem isolated in any singular country. Using McDonald’s as another example, the company goes to great lengths to support multilingual communities. In-store touchscreens in the UK feature both English and Polish (to support the 600,000+ resident Polish speakers), while businesses both in and close to Wales also often feature a Welsh language option (although not without a few hiccups). Yet both the app and website are English only. 

In all these situations, it can feel as if language support is being rolled out but, after enough nondevelopment, customers can simply start to feel less appreciated as a result.  

From the Customer’s Perspective 

It’s already clear that native language support is appreciated by users, who often demonstrate this with their wallets. But how do such shoppers react when only the initial steps are in their language? In the above cases, customers are forced to switch languages or give up on long term engagement. 

For most companies, this is acceptable because the data doesn’t show any dramatic downtick. For now, that’s only because competitors aren’t adopting anything better. So, why not be the first? 😉   

From Your Employee’s Perspective 

Oh yes – your employees could also benefit from a little extra support. This is important for those companies operating on multiple markets. Modern PIMs and CMS options can support multi-language support on the backend too, so this is a no-brainer for us.  

This way, one country doesn’t end up using outdated product descriptions or information because it was only updated in the primary language of the domestic market. A single source of truth is essential for scaling up, whether it’s cross-border or multi-store.  

The Solution? Get a Little Headless 

There are arguably two main reasons why these problems occur. The first is due to silo-heavy organizations, wherein each department is responsible for its own language variants. The latter is due to monolithic technology that makes it more difficult for companies to implement additional languages with ease.  

There are countless solutions designed to help one centralized piece of information get to many places, whether that’s multiple websites, different media or indeed different languages. PIM and CMS both provide these options, supporting multiple languages. What’s more, if you do it via a headless approach (not every CMS is a Headless CMS, and that’s a shame) you’re working in the “upload once, publish everywhere” mentality.  

Of course, having the right tools means very little if the organizational culture and mentality isn’t equally adjusted. Removing walls between departments is no easy feat but, in cases like those described earlier, the benefits should be clear. Many of the largest companies show that different departments have different values (or simply just budgets) regarding multilanguage support. 

Perhaps even worse, it demonstrates the wider lack of understanding from the point of the customer. While the initiatives have certainly been started, the missing gaps in the customer path suggest that such organizations haven’t tried to put themselves in the users’ shoes across the entire journey.  

The Customer Service Challenge 

Of course, touch points and other digital formats are the easiest to adapt. But what about communication? We ultimately have to have some practical limits. Not every store can be operated by an elite team of polyglots. 

Customer service, however, is often an area where long-term loyalty can be won. Shoppers often return things for a variety of reasons, many of which have no negative connection to the company, but how businesses handle those needs has a significant impact on the return visits. 

So, imagine the customers that have used in-store touch points in their native language, that are now stuck using communication channels that don’t support them. There are numerous solutions available, such as automated chatbots and voicebots, that can at least strive to remove some of this frustration without requiring entire new linguistic teams. 

What About the Legal Details? 

The one area we should highlight with caution, however, are any legal texts. Legalese is often very specific and not always translatable. As such, we highly recommend speaking to the best legal experts in your team.  

For example, GDPR suggests supporting all languages easily. Using an English opt-out on a Polish contact form isn’t the preferrable solution. But when it comes to terms and conditions, as well as other larger legally binding documents, many countries often require these in the lingua franca of their country – more often than not the native language(s).  

How Many Languages Should You Support? 

Over 7,000 languages are currently recognized in the world today, so it’s obvious that companies have to draw the line – and budgets – somewhere. So how do you determine that? 

While we don’t want to give a wishy-washy answer here but it really does depend on your business. For example, if you’re a B2C business open to the public and selling at a lower price point (which typically means a significantly larger customer base) additional languages have a bigger value.  

On the B2B side, or companies that sell very specific products to specific customers, the argument does drop off. If you’re selling specifically to banks, for example, it can be a given that the CEO speaks the “business language” of the country.  

But the real questions to ask are: 

  • Does the cost of implementing a new language open up enough potential revenue?  
  • Are there estimates or other pieces of information that support this target group as a valid part of your business?  
  • Are there other parts of the business model – whether it’s a different department or another region – that have implemented such languages? 

And ultimately… does it simply provide a strategic advantage over the competition? 😉  

Closing Thoughts 

You’ll notice this blog is available in English, Polish and German. Clearly, we think supporting our partners and clients is important, so it’s hard for us to be fully objective on this one. 

However, since we know nearly every country has communities so large calling them a “minority” seems counterintuitive, we can certainly argue the potential advantages to be gained in this often-overlooked area. While it’s never a guarantee, getting into some good graces with the overlooked parts of your potential audience certainly won’t hurt the customer or brand experience. 

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