The 3 top languages in Europe’s emerging e-commerce markets

Marguerite Arnold
Europe is one of the most linguistically diverse areas of the world. While English is commonly used, the language of sales is what works best in order to expand into new territories. Involving E-commerce, this means that translations are required. What are the top 3 languages to consider for your cyber sales strategy?

Commerce is not limited to domestic borders anymore. In fact, globalisation allows even smaller-sized businesses to reach international customers in greater concentrations than ever before. On top of this, traditional barriers to cross-border commerce are rapidly falling.
Beyond treaties and trade tariffs, currency conversion has always been an issue. These days, however, such quandaries are evaporating like spit on a Texas highway in summer. The rise of the FinTech vertical is revolutionising cross-border and currency payments, making them not only cheaper, but available in real time. Better data-network access and the mobile web is breaking ground for mobile commerce everywhere.
Your website, therefore, becomes a mandatory front door for your business. This is now true of most, if not all industries, services and goods.


Sustaining an interest in foreign markets and actually reaching them are two separate concepts. What are the emerging hot markets globally? Where do you get the most bang for your buck? Which markets are worthy of translating your website completely? On top of all this is the next, very important consideration. Which countries, no matter what language they speak, shop online? Particularly for the kinds of products your business is selling.
In Europe, this has become an essential consideration. E-commerce is just beginning to be accepted as “mainstream” on most of the continent, yet some countries are more adept and engaged in cyber-commerce than others. Keeping all these questions in mind, we examine 3 languages to watch in E-commerce markets.
People tend to be attracted to websites in their own language first. This includes everything from informational pages to the kind of E-commerce content your business is looking to expand.


Nobody really knows what the “most used” language of the internet really is. UNESCO even studied the issue during the first decade of this century. What they found was that while the overall percentage of English websites dropped, it was still one of the core languages utilised throughout the web. Most figures put English-language websites or those with an English language-based home site at the top, garnering roughly half of all internet traffic at present.
English-only pages receive lots of traffic.
While this means that English-only pages receive lots of traffic, it certainly doesn’t mean you should skip offering local translations for non-native English audiences. Unfortunately, Americans often do not consider the importance of other languages in terms of E-commerce or cultural fitness. In other parts of the world – especially Europe – populations are polyglot and have more money to spend. These are factors simply not worth ignoring.


Statistics on cross-border spending are a bit easier to quantify when thinking about online strategy. By far, the largest international shopping customers are Canadians, reaching a staggering 37% of total annual spending. Australians arrive in second place around 8%.
Germany and the UK make up another 10% between them (with the British accounting for 7%). Switzerland, France and Brazil also have significant shares of the global cross-border cyber market. The remainder is dominated by markets in Asia.
On top of this, there are also hot markets for certain kinds of goods and services that fall on the outskirts of the largest markets. These are still valuable niches whose customers should not be forgotten!
When compiling a strategy for an online campaign, look at existing customer patterns. Try to map out consumer growth and observe it in reference to the overall market size and corresponding interest in E-commerce. These steps can help you determine which markets are worth tailoring your efforts to first.



Even if English is not your native language, English translations of websites today are required if you want to enter nearly any market the world over. That starts with the U.S. Americans are also very used to buying things online. That is how most New Yorkers even get their groceries these days. Just like other languages, English web pages should be written in native English dialect. Customer service is very important in the U.S. and one of the best ways to show it is to maximize your website for ease of understanding.
Making up another huge segment of the English-speaking cyber market are the Brits. The British are island dwellers. As such, they are also used to buying abroad. The internet simply makes the process easier for them. It also creates access to cheaper goods. However, just because your website might be written in “American” English, don’t get sloppy. As George Bernard Shaw once quipped, “England and America are two cultures separated by a common language.”
This gets even more important when marketing to Canadian consumers. Not only do they make up the largest share of cross-border shoppers, many of them also speak French. And of course, do not forget the Swiss who speak three other languages fluently (German and French in addition to English).

Yuqo quotesWhen you present a website in English, you are also creating content for other valuable cross-border shoppers in multiple countries beyond Europe and the U.S.

These include Australia, South Africa and many Asian Countries. China and of course India have large English-speaking populations as well. While these countries do not transact much (yet) online, they are steadily moving in that direction. Buying power is frequently an issue in these countries as is access to the internet. However, if you find the right strategy to reach out, these are customers you do not want to bypass.


Spanish is the “other” language Americans might be familiar with. This is not just because of large Latino populations in the United States, but because of its proximity to Spanish-speaking countries south of the border. Then, there are the Spaniards themselves. The domestic Spanish E-commerce market is starting to go ballistic and has been on the upswing for most of this decade.


Not only do the German’s have the EU’s strongest economy, they adapt to online shopping like a duck to water. Trailing only the UK in European cross-border E-commerce sales, Germans remain keen consumers when it comes to domestic and foreign retail. Ex-im is a way of life for most German companies.
As consumers, German speakers are increasingly becoming one of the most valuable online audiences globally. Yes, of course they speak English – in most cases far better than other people speak German. However, if you want to reach German consumers, your website must “speak German” too. A whopping 61% of the population make online purchases now. In fact, digital messaging has expanded countrywide in numbers greater than those in found in the U.S. These data confirm Germany as a valuable, rich and engaged market. Plan accordingly!


There are a couple of other “do not miss” target languages for burgeoning cyber-marketers. Poland and Denmark are both E-commerce hotspots, especially involving cross-border sales. Not only do both countries sustain rigorous individual economies, they are hungry for outside products as well.
Poland and Denmark are both E-commerce hotspots.


When launching a sales campaign in any new territory, do not go at it alone. You will need the assistance of native translators to help localise your website. This necessitates much more than simply translating body copy word for word.
Luckily, there is plenty of support available, so you don’t have to broach this process as a total novice. Reputable consulting services staffed with native translators are readily available and more affordable than ever. These services will also be able to assist with “cultural” issues as well. This ensures the best, relevant content so as not to offend or isolate potential consumers. A properly localised website includes the look, feel and entire presentation of your entire.
In sum? E-commerce has penetrated into mainstream global commerce and is on track to continue its reign. Opening a door to the three aforementioned languages, among others, be sure to tailor your online presence to the target-culture you are hoping to engage with. Regardless of where your consumers come from, everyone benefits from relatable, language-specific sales pitches they can get excited about.