Assessment of Web Localization for Arabic Market
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Assessment of Web Localization for Arabic Market

Assessment of Web Localization for Arabic Market

Arab WorldAre you thinking about localization into Arabic? There are 24 countries where Arabic is spoken so you may have put it on your ‘wishlist’ for consideration.

We all know that localization will increase the in-market adoption of product. Depending on factors such as language, locale, demographic, and product, people are at least 3 times more likely to buy a product when they can read sales and product information and make purchases in their own language (Forrester has researched and published on this). Simply put, localization increases buy rates in-country.

Whether or not to localize for a certain market can be a difficult decision. There are multiple factors to consider when assessing whether or not to do it. This blog provides some info bytes to bring into the discussion.

Huge Population

The Arabic speaking world has the 7th largest population of internet users – 65.4 million of them – shown below in an infographic from internetworldstats.com. The masses are there, online, and probably waiting for content to show up in their language.

Top 10 Languages

The Arab World Has Money to Spend

Overall online spending is projected to double. This is a much faster growth rate than in established markets. While the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region was just .3% of worldwide spending across sectors, the growth rate makes the region interesting to companies trying to grab share in new markets.

There is broadly available information on internet usage and buying patterns in the Middle East from which conclusions can be drawn. For instance, see this 2012 book on Global SEM by Kennedy and Hauksson.

Arabs are Bilingual, but Not Generally in English

Bilingualism plays a factor in whether localization will significantly increase revenue in-market. While many Arabic-speaking countries have an online population that is bilingual, the second language is not often English. For example, people in Chad or Algeria speak Arabic and French. Obviously, if you don’t localize from English, only those Arabic speakers also speaking English would purchase your product. See this link for a list of languages in bilingual countries.

Messy Localization Will Hurt You in the Arabic World

For the Arabic world, the risks of not internationalizing and adapting web content properly are very high. Buying will increase only if sites are properly localized and internationalized.

Most Arabic-speaking countries have conservative cultures and this can mean, for example, that there are plenty of images that are culturally offensive. Many of us are well aware of the bias against images of body parts. Another example is that in Saudi Arabia the only images that are allowed relate to geometry. This cultural preference leads to some considerable restrictions, especially in marketing content.

Further, localizing incorrectly can make the issue worse by driving users to leave a site.

‘Language and pre-commerce issues drive away low-or-no English visitors. After sluggishness, the top reasons less proficient visitors leave a site include quick reversion to English, lengthy agreements to read, requirements to provide too much information, and the prospect of paying hefty shipping costs. Next up on their list of site turnoffs: the absence of transaction support for their country, followed by the inability of the site to accept local credit cards.’

For more information, see the CSA report here.

Beware: There Are 13 Separate Dialects of Arabic

Arabic dialects vary more from one to the next than dialects of the English language. You have to consider whether one generic (e.g., the Modern Standard) instance of Arabic will be ‘good enough’ for your entire Arabic audience. Items that can vary include syntax, levels of formality, and vocabulary. Localization into one dialect for one locale is indeed a risky business if you hope for buyers across the Arabic market. Yet locale and dialect specificity is especially important if you are localizing marketing material, which requires an approach per locale.

How do you make decisions about which dialect you should choose? Well, one of every two Arabs in the world is in Egypt; localizing into Egyptian Arabic might bring your biggest ROI. There is a wealth of interesting information on Arabic dialects here.

Lastly, Arabic Localization is Expensive

Arabic is simply more expensive than other languages, so this must be considered when calculating ROI. Code has to be bi-di enabled, and more than your average amount of testing may be required. Bi-directional languages (including Arabic, Farsi, and Hebrew) can cost up to 15% more than non bi-di languages when considering all tasks related to localization.  

Laying the Groundwork

These data points are the starting point in making a decision on whether to add Arabic to your language list. Here are some other questions to ask yourself:  

  • What are your sales projections for the Arabic world?  
  • What # of clients do you have from Arabic speaking countries?
  • What internet traffic do you have from Arabic speaking countries?

What other factors have you looked at when considering localizing into Arabic?

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