Sounding Off: Cheryl Rettig – “Spanish Translation and Localization”

If you knew that a particular group of people comprised the fastest growing minority group in the United States, had a total population of over 50 million, and possessed purchasing power in the hundreds of billions, would you do whatever it took to reach this group of people in their native language and with content that spoke to their culture? Most business owners would say, “Of course, I would be foolish to let this opportunity pass me by!” But if that is true, then why have so many business owners failed to recognize the benefits of Spanish website translation and localization in light of the growing and influential Hispanic population in the United States? With better transcription services online, one can get the information they need in the language their comfortable in and consume it at their own pace.

Importance of Native Language Content

Citing findings from a recent study examining the purchasing preferences of businesses in eight non-English speaking countries, Common Sense Advisory Chief Research Officer Donald A. DePalma stated, “Many firms still debate whether it makes business sense for them to localize their products, mostly because there is a longstanding assumption that people feel comfortable using English. However, this data clearly shows that even when people speak English confidently, they still…want to learn about these products in their own languages.” Further, of the top 10 languages used on the Internet today, Spanish is ranked number three (with over 150 million online users) according to, behind only English and Chinese. Spanish translation will therefore allow you to reach millions of people in the United States, as well as around the world.

Rising Purchasing Power

And what about the purchasing power of the Hispanic market in the United States? Perhaps you have heard the statement “Hispanic spending power has reached $1 trillion!” Wow! That is incredible. Only a business owner extremely short-sighted would fail to translate their website into Spanish and localize their advertising materials geared to Hispanics. Though the actual number is probably lower, it is still quite considerable.

In “Selling Cats as Rabbits – Classic Hispanic Advertising Half-Truths,” blogger Ken Muench, who has years of experience working for Hispanic advertising agencies in the United States, said that Hispanics do in fact spend nearly $1 trillion, but only approximately 1/3 of this group is best reached through Spanish (due to varying levels of acculturation and Spanish use). Further, the people who are best reached through Spanish generally have lower incomes than those best reached in English (and therefore less purchasing power). A more accurate statement would be that Hispanics in the United States possess a purchasing power in the range of $333 billion. And quite frankly, even though it’s not $1 trillion that is still a large number that business owners would be wise to pay attention to.

But does Spanish website translation really lead to a tangible increase in sales and profit for companies that invest the time and money in professional Spanish translation services?

Major Companies that have Spanish Websites

In their “Top 500 Guide,” Internet Retailer compiled a list of the top 500 business-to-consumer retailers in the United States and Canada based on several categories, including full-year online sales, growth rate, and monthly unique visitors. Several websites in the top 100 retailers on this list have translated their websites into Spanish, all with a prominent link at the top of their home page to the Spanish site:

#7) Sears (Online Sales: $3,107,145,001 and 2010 Growth: 12.0%)
#11) Best Buy (Online Sales: $2,500,000,000 and 2010 Growth: 13.6%)
#18) Victoria’s Secret (Online Sales: $1,563,490,000 and 2010 Growth: 8.2%) #28) Amway (Online Sales: $912,548,070 and 2010 Growth: 3.0%)
#30) Avon (Online Sales: $768,259,970 and 2010 Growth: 4.0%)
#78) Nike Inc. (Online sales: $260,000,000 and 2010 Growth: 25%)

It is of course impossible to determine how much growth can be attributed to their Spanish website and services. And there are other companies in the top 100 that are doing quite well, even without a Spanish website. But the numbers above are definitely important to consider when deciding whether or not you should translate and localize your website, documents, and marketing materials into Spanish. And if Spanish website translation and localization can help you reach the U.S. Hispanic market, one of the fastest growing groups in the country, then doesn’t it make sense to consider hiring a professional translation service provider to ensure this important endeavour goes as smoothly, and as profitably, as possible?

Cheryl Rettig is a freelance writer in wintranslation, a translation services company located in Canada. Cheryl has written numerous articles and free White Papers for wintranslation examining current translation and localization issues facing business owners today.

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