According to retail research from the European Commission (EC), only 18 per cent of people would buy products in a foreign language.

Even for small to medium enterprises, online retailing raises the issue of connecting with the world.

“English was long the dominant language of the Internet, but that is changing. There are now over 250 languages represented on the Internet, with English, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese and Spanish making up the top five,” according to the OECD’s research.

When you have an online sales page, anyone around the world could possibly access your site. Therefore, translating your website makes plenty of business sense.

By offering a translation on the important information on your sales pages, you could potentially access the 45 per cent of survey respondents who revealed they would never use a language other than their own when online.

Leaving consumers to rely on machine translation – like Google Translate and Babelfish –  is not recommended as those systems are on average only 49 per cent accurate.

This means that important details and selling points on your page may be lost if users are forced to use these web based translators.

Fortunately, there is usually no need to translate all of your site, just the most appropriate pages. Often this can be done by transferring international consumers to a translated microsite.

In further language barriers, businesses without a language strategy are at risk of losing out on major international export clients.

Language barriers caused 54 businesses to lose potential contracts according to a recent survey from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Retailers in Australia are particularly encouraged to embrace multiple languages. In 2007, the lack of languages was identified as a risk to the Australian economy.

“For our nation to continue to prosper we must enhance our links with the world – we do that by improving our cultural understanding, our language skills,” explained the Languages in Crisis: A rescue plan for Australia, released in 2007.