The Internet is all about languages

The T-Index or how to choose the right potential e-marketplace for your services

Only the most simple-minded reader doesn’t realise that e-commerce on the internet takes all the details into account. Take languages. It would seem simpler: if the site is Russian, put Russian by default and do business in it. But no. There is a tool such statistics T-index, which takes into account, if I may say so, «solvency» of a particular language on the Internet spaces.

Why T-index is important

The T-index has a percentage expression of how often, who and how people shop online. Experts have derived several rankings which can be of great help to those companies which focus on consumer demand (which is practically everyone). The T-index contains 3 main indicators: the number of paying users, the language in which they communicate, and the average GDP per user. For the latter, it is not the usual gross domestic product, but a hypothetical statistical value of electronic purchases made by a nation.

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How it works

All you need to do is browse through the rating table and select the languages with the highest T-index. For instance, based on the data you get, translating a website into 10 languages will attract 80% of e-commerce buyers, and translating into 3 languages: English, Chinese and Japanese will attract 50%. Sounds tempting, doesn’t it? But apart from the bright prospects, there are pitfalls, which we will discuss a little later.

English is the universal translator

Among its brethren, English is the absolute champion with a T-index of 35%. And it’s not just a beautiful number, it is supported by an almost half-billion-paying population of the Web with an average «value» of nearly $40,000 per user. Thanks to US expansion, English is firmly established as an international language not only in business, but also in official and public spheres. Twenty-four nations, even Africa, have chosen it as the language of international communication over the many dialects and accents of their continent. This is why English is a universal translator, bringing together the most varied countries and nationalities.

In second place is Chinese, with its simplified writing system (10.7 % and 13 155 USD of GDP). A justifiable result for the land of the rising sun, communist ideals and rapid prosperity through mastering the latest technologies.

Third place in the ranking is shared by Japan and Spain. Their T-index is 7% each and Japan leads in Internet GNP per capita ($36,724) compared to Spain’s $24,615. This is despite the fact that Spanish is spoken in 21 countries and Japanese only in Japan.

Russian comes in a respectable 8th place out of 20 other languages. Its T-index is 3.3% and $24,475 of GDP.

Censorship is the first stumbling block

Surprisingly, even in our developed 21st century, in the era of globalization and glasnost, there is still such a thing as censorship of Internet content in terms of the breadth of information distribution. It means that the idea of censorship is not bad at all, because along with useful information, it is possible to encounter unhelpful information, especially for children. By censorship we mean an artificial restriction of content by the state. Of course, China and Muslim countries such as Iran, Iraq, etc. are famous for this (see Fig. 1). (see Figure 1).
When planning to enter these markets, one has to take into account the following peculiarity.

English is not a panacea

It would seem: translate your website into the language and start resting on our laurels. But no. The 35% T-index may be surprising on its own, but there is only one way to realize its full commercial potential: you need a pool of potential markets in English and a free zone in which they can communicate. To put it simply: start your trade not from a continent, but from an island with access to seas and oceans. If the potential English-speaking market does not have access to other English-language resources, your translated site, even in flawless English, may not reach your goal.

In this regard, experts advise considering the following factors

checking the demand for your product or service in local markets of all English-speaking parties;
Meeting technical, customs, health, sanitary and other government requirements;
Analysis of competitor activity in local markets;
adaptation of your products to local characteristics and customer preferences;
the international status or authority of the country you intend to enter;
the presence or absence of government censorship of the Internet;
Analysis of the Internet payment methods available in the country.

Here is a practical example. A European company has a website aimed at an English and Spanish audience. The company is thinking about expanding its services. Thanks to the T-index, it is easy to identify a potential market: China. The Japanese market is also interesting. And here the company faces the following problem: which Chinese language should be preferred. As we know, there are two main varieties: Simplified Chinese (ranked second in our ranking), which is officially adopted in most of China and in Singapore. There is also the traditional script, which is used in Hong Kong (Xianggang). Macau and Taiwan. Taking into account government censorship of the internet, analysts have concluded that only the Singapore market, or the first version of the Chinese language, is promising. But Singapore’s market compared to Japan’s T-index is 0.13 percent to 7 percent, so the obvious next conclusion is to translate the site into Japanese, leaving Chinese for better times.

So we can see how easy it is to apply the T-index, but weigh all the factors involved. Although it could be called a new tool, the T-index is a handy indicator of the attractiveness of a particular market to potential service providers.