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Monday, February 4, 2013

Language Translation Delivers a Significant Competitive Advantage for Companies Doing Business in the BRIC Countries

Many companies have targeted the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) for business expansion. In these countries, large segments of the population are enjoying fast-growing disposable incomes and their consumer spending habits are becoming more diverse and sophisticated. Not surprisingly, consumer products, pharmaceutical, auto and electronics companies are all pursuing these markets.

However, for many companies, the language barrier is often one of the main obstacles to establishing a successful sales channel. Numerous studies have shown that people are more comfortable buying products when information is presented in their native language. According to Common Sense Advisory, 56.2 percent of consumers say that the ability to obtain information in their own language is more important than price.1

It would seem that most organizations would invest in language translation for this purpose, but there is much work to do in this area. For example, Forrester Research found that 95 percent of Chinese online consumers indicate greater comfort level with websites in their language; yet only one percent of U.S.-based online retailers offer sites specific to China.2

Clearly, companies that immediately invest in localizing their sales and marketing programs can gain a significant edge over those who do not.

Why the BRIC Countries Make Attractive Markets

All of the BRIC countries are characterized by a rapidly growing middle class with previously unheard-of levels of disposable income. Growth aside, interest in Russia and India has been somewhat subdued due to political, infrastructure and cultural issues that make these countries harder to penetrate. Brazil and China, however, are gaining much attention for many reasons, including the following:

Brazilian Consumer Market Trends

Brazil is expected to be one of the largest consumer markets and a leading global economy by the year 2020.3

  • In contrast to global trends, Brazil's population is still young and growing, with a median age of just 27 in 2006. Its population is expected to rise to 220 million by 2020.4 
  • Women are increasingly joining the workforce and enjoying a growing per capita disposable income. Between 2000 and 2006, female per capita disposable income rose by 7.3 percent, while the earnings of adult males rose by just 2.6 percent over the same period.5 
  • Consumer purchasing of non-essential and non-grocery items is rising. 
  • Brazil’s aging population is also growing, creating a new market segment for product companies.

Chinese Consumer Market Trends

China has one of the fastest growing disposable income levels in the world, projected to grow by 7.8 percent between 2010 and 2015. The country’s economic power is expanding steadily, bringing up to 100 million households into the middle and affluent classes.6 Trends include: 

  • Rapid urbanization is leading to increased levels of home ownership, fueling a growing demand for consumer goods. 
  • As cities expand, a suburban population is emerging, increasing the purchase of cars. 
  • Young consumers are more willing to spend on credit, facilitating a growing appetite for non-essential items such as second cars, consumer electronics and entertainment systems. 
  • The middle class is becoming more open to purchasing over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, creating a new market for pharmaceutical companies.

Online shopping represents a huge opportunity for companies reaching Chinese buyers. People of all ages, but particularly the younger population, use the Internet for social networking, e-commerce and media consumption. Businesses that translate their websites into Chinese-Simplified and Chinese-Traditional will gain a tremendous advantage.

The media is filled with stories of opportunity in the BRIC countries, but it also includes stories of companies whose strategies have faltered for a variety of reasons. Language barriers may be an obstacle, but one that can be readily addressed by engaging the services of language solutions provider with industry and country-specific expertise.

1 “Why Localize?” Globalization & Localization Association (GALA);
2 Forrester Research, Translation and Localization of Retail Web Sites, 2009
3 “Passport: Consumer Lifestyles in Brazil,” Euromonitor International, October 2012.
4 “Brazil: Growth Market for the Future,” Euromonitor International: Strategic Briefing, February 2008.
5 “Passport: Consumer Lifestyles in Brazil,” Euromonitor International.
6 “Passport: Consumer Lifestyles in China,” Euromonitor International, February 2012.


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