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Multi-Lingual Approach Can Help Businesses Expand Their Customer Base

Given that most customers today reach for their smartphones to make a purchase decision, organizations should start the multi-lingual transformation journey from their apps.

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At a time when the business environment is getting increasingly competitive, every organization must pay heed to these wise words by the 20th-century Austrian philosopher. With globalization reaching its peak, taking a multi-lingual approach is no longer an option; it is a necessity. Even though the universal appeal of English can’t be denied, it is critical that businesses use more than one language to communicate with their customer base. Especially, in a multi-cultural country like India that boasts of 122 major languages and 1599 others. With a rise in smartphone and internet penetration, many of these non-English speaking Indians are now making a digital transition.

According to a KPMG report released in 2017, as many as 536 million Indian language users will access the internet by 2021, accounting for 75% of India’s total internet user base. The report further predicts that the Hindi user base could outgrow the English user base in the same year. There will be a significant increase in the Marathi and Bengali users, whereas Tamil, Kannada and Telugu users will be amongst the most digitally engaged. It’s evident that an entire generation of people are becoming digitally native and using the internet to access information, search for brands and make purchase decisions.

In its latest “Year in Search: Insights for Brands Report”, Google revealed that 9 out of 10 new Internet users in India are likely to be Indian language users. In fact, queries in regional languages are growing faster than English across various e-commerce categories such as consumer-tech, clothing, beauty and personal care. The current scenario presents massive opportunities for businesses in India if they take the multi-lingual route. To tap into this expanding consumer base, brands must add a multi-lingual interface to their websites and apps, providing users with the option to choose their own language. An app with support for regional languages would better cater to those residing outside metro settings, i.e. tier-II, tier-III cities and small towns. This is because people can better process information if it is in their mother tongue, and are more likely to be inclined towards platforms that give them this option.

Take, popular social media app Twitter, for instance. The microblogging site allows users to create posts and interact in various languages including Japanese, French, Spanish, German, among others. Twitter also offers support for several Indian languages such as Hindi and Tamil. As a result, the company is witnessing its fastest revenue growth in India in the last five years. According to a statement released by Twitter India MD, 50% tweets on the platform are in non-English. This is just one example. Many customer-centric businesses have experienced a sudden surge, both in terms of customer acquisition and revenue generation, by adding the multi-lingual feature to their websites and apps.

Given that most customers today reach for their smartphones to make a purchase decision, organizations should start the multi-lingual transformation journey from their apps. Apps are the first touch-point for customers, which also create a first impression in their minds. Hence, apps with multi-lingual support help businesses to not only acquire new customers but also to retain the existing customer base. It’s an indisputable fact that being multi-lingual creates more value for the business, and reflects a brand culture that is all-encompassing and inclusive. These two factors can prove to be differentiating, especially when multiple companies are offering similar products with similar price tags.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


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Sripad Vaidya

The author is Co-Founder & COO, Confirmtkt.com

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