Global Marketers, Meet the Multilingual Content Consumer

What does Mary Meeker’s 2014 report on internet trends tell global marketers? What message does it have for companies who want to go global? We digested the data-laden report and list here some key elements for international strategy:



More Devices

The sheer number and type of devices with which people are accessing the internet has increased.

Multilingual Content Consumer

Smartphone users now stand at 22% of the world’s population, or 1.6 billion people. The fastest growth in smartphone users comes from underpenetrated markets like China, India, Brazil, and Indonesia. The population penetration figures for tablets, too, is important. 

More Internet

All the proud new owners of mobile phones, smartphones, and tablets (along with old owners) have contributed to a 10% growth in the number of internet users.

The percentage of page views from mobile devices has nearly doubled. Globally, the number went from 14% to 25%, with the biggest growth coming from Africa: 18% to 38%.

slide 2 from 2014 mary meeker report

More People, More Geographies

And a notable share of these new internet users, whether through smartphones or otherwise, is coming from – in Meeker’s terms – “difficult to monetize” economies such as India, Indonesia, and Nigeria.

slide 3 from 2014 mary meeker report

slide 4 from 2014 mary meeker report

More Content

This is not from the Meeker report but is still very relevant to our discussion. On September 16, 2014, we reached the milestone of the one billionth website. In 2013 alone, the web grew by more than one third: from about 630 million websites at the start of the year to over 850 million by December 2013 (of which 180 million were active).

Introducing the Multilingual Content Consumer

It’s been quite some time since the consumer became the content consumer (and producer) – and her profile is fast-changing. She no longer relies on one primary screen, the television, as the source of most of her information. She lives, plays, studies, and works in a multi-screen society which is not only guzzling data like never before, but is also, more importantly, interacting with it.

A typical week in her life might look like this: She uses her internet-enabled devices to plan her weekend and her travel; to discuss and share these plans with friends and family; to research and upload pictures of the places she went or things she bought; and, finally, to review them.

Now, connect some more dots.

She could very well be from a developing economy. In which case, she’s probably accessing the internet primarily from her mobile phone (smart or not), doesn’t own a desktop, and English is not her mother tongue.

Add one other bit of information to the mix – there are millions of users who fit her profile. 

So, What Does it All Mean for Global Marketers? 

To get in on the game, you must translate website and digital content. Unless you’ve been living under an offline rock, you know that your most valuable marketing tool is content. But what many marketers still miss is that this content needs to be in the language of the user. Research after research points to the fact that consumers will not buy what they cannot read. This should become crystal clear if you take all the data that I previously mentioned and combine it with two important points from Meeker’s report:

  1. The internet trifecta is made of Content + Community + Commerce.

It’s interesting that she uses the word ‘trifecta,’ defined as a bet in which the person betting calls the first three finishers in a race in the correct order. In our case, content comes first.

2. The internet is growing in “difficult to monetize” economies.

“Difficult to monetize” doesn’t mean “impossible to monetize.” But your international strategy will remain incomplete if you lack the first element in Meeker’s equation – and we’ll tweak it a bit here – in-language content. People will not interact with your product, not build a community, and ultimately not buy from you, if you continue to talk to them in an alien language. Engagement is critical to today’s consumer. Without it, you will ultimately lose out to competitors who understand the potential of the multilingual content consumer.

Developing economies present many stumbling blocks to foreign companies: lack of infrastructure, corruption, different buyer behaviors, and of course, a different culture. Language is a vital part of one’s culture. So when the economy you are targeting is already “difficult to monetize,” do you want to reduce your chances of success by not translating? Global companies who have succeeded in their market penetration efforts in these emerging economy countries will tell you a growth story built on localization.

We’ll leave you with one more piece of information that should goad you to go global. In 2013, nine of the top 10 internet properties were based in the U.S. and 79% of their users were from outside the US. In 2014, only six of the top 10 properties are based in the U.S. and 86% of their users are from outside the U.S.

The center of the world wide web is shifting. Are you coming along?