Why Minority Languages Are Key to Driving Online Sales

Why Minority Languages Are Key to Driving Online Sales


Every year, more and more of the world’s population are heading online. Estimates put the numbers at up to 250 million new users each and every year. This means an increase in the number of users in less-dominant languages—and an opportunity to reach them.

In other words, the growth in English-speaking internet users has stalled. India, for example, has seen a spike in the number of people headed online, with 90% of these users not communicating in English.

Reaching new audiences isn’t just about expanding into new markets. Your brand can also reach new domestic audiences by catering to minority language populations in your current markets.

A key example is the Spanish-speaking market in the U.S. Many American brands recognize the value of reaching this audience through targeted content in their native language.

Although trying to reach users in a range of languages may sound like an overwhelming task, you don’t need to translate your services into every conceivable language. In fact, your website only needs to offer 23 languages in order to cater to 90% of the world’s population. Translate it into 36 languages and you’ll reach 95% of the world’s population.

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Realistically, however, you may be able to reach huge new audiences with just one or two new languages that are relevant to your target markets.

Take India, for example. An astonishing 450 languages are spoken in the country, but not all languages have an equal population or represent audiences with the same buying power. Approximately 40% of Indians use Hindi as their first language, making this a smart language choice to target and reach a significant local audience.

That’s the approach Netflix has taken in India, where it offers content in both English and Hindi. Local competitors offer a wider range of languages, such as Tamil and Kannada—which are minority languages that nonetheless represent sizeable populations in the tens of millions.

Overtaking the English-speaking online population

Every day, some 1 million people head online for the first time. One side effect of this phenomenon is that it’s boosting the percentage of minority-language speakers as opposed to majority ones. In less than three years, there will be twice as many speakers of languages found in India online as opposed to English speakers.

Although English-language content once dominated the internet, this has since diminished relative to other languages online. In fact, the growth in new internet users comes largely from minority-language groups.

There are multiple reasons for this. To some extent, digital access is now more or less saturated in English-speaking countries. These countries also have relatively low birthrates, so there is no large influx of young users headed online.

Contrast this to India, for example, where there remains a huge potential for bringing audiences online. The last few years have seen rapid growth in access to the internet, and this is on-trend to continue into 2022 thanks to cheap smartphones and mobile data.

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And that’s despite a historically low birthrate that’s not all that much higher than that of English-speaking countries (2.3 children per adult woman versus 1.8 in the U.S.). By 2021, there will be some 250 million English speakers online, compared to 500 million speakers of languages found across India. The majority of these will speak Hindi, with Marathi, Bengali, Tamil, and Telugu speakers accounting for another 30%.

Although India has a large English-speaking population, there’s still huge potential to capture users who speak other languages in India’s growing online market. Image credit: Don Mammoser / Shutterstock.com

In other markets, the growth in online access is hampered by the high cost of access. Demographic factors and economic growth account for the increase in internet access, despite these relatively high costs of getting online.

Nigeria, for example, has a young population eager to be online and strong growth year after year when it comes to internet access, despite the high costs associated with this. Iran, another country with a large youth population, is believed to have internet growth rates of over 130%.

For brands chasing new audiences, there’s huge untapped potential for reaching new language groups online. These populations are likely to include users who are fairly novice, connected via mobile, and likely to be located in emerging markets.

This audience has specific needs and characteristics that can be hard to cater to. However, they represent a huge opportunity for brands willing and able to engage with them in their own language.

The key is to remain open-minded about engaging with new internet users. With brands eager to enter new markets, there’s going to be competition when it comes to catering to new online audiences.

Brands that manage to successfully engage with these new users will need to make efforts to communicate in their preferred language. Brands that fail to take up minority languages are likely to lose out to competitors who make the most of these new language opportunities.

Written by Demetrius Williams
Demetrius Williams
Demetrius Williams is a Digital Marketing Specialist at TranslateMedia and has previous eCommerce experience working with a number of luxury brands in the fashion and beauty industry. He enjoys photography, binge-watching Netflix and can often be found roaming around London with a camera in his hand.

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