Can’t read, won’t buy

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Based on a survey of 8,709 consumers in 29 countries across Europe, Asia, North America, and South America, CSA Research found that 76 percent of online shoppers prefer to buy products with information in their native language. Forty percent state that they will never buy from websites in other languages. 

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In an increasingly diverse global marketplace, the power of communication cannot be overstated. Many businesses miss the importance of engaging their global audience with a complete experience in their language that conveys the company’s brand, reputation, and trustworthiness. For your global consumers, language plays a pivotal role in their purchasing decisions.  

The concept of “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy” underscores the significant influence of language barriers on consumer behavior and purchasing decisions. In this blog, we’ll explore how language and cultural nuances influence the buying behavior of multicultural consumers and how businesses can leverage this understanding to tap into new markets. We will explore the implications of this concept as well, supported by statistics from the “Can’t Read. Won’t Buy” study from CSA Research.  

We will also discuss the importance of translation and interpreting in overcoming language barriers to drive business success. 

The Multicultural Consumer Landscape: 

Multicultural consumers represent a vast and influential segment of the market, bringing with them diverse languages, customs, and traditions. Whether it’s Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, or another language, the ability to effectively communicate with these consumers is paramount in influencing how consumers perceive and engage with products and services. According to the “Can’t Read. Won’t Buy” study, 72 percent of consumers are more likely to purchase a product or service if the information is available in their native language. This statistic demonstrates the critical role that language plays in consumer decision-making. 

Language as a Gateway: 

Language is more than a means of communication; it serves as a gateway to culture, identity, and understanding. For multicultural consumers, seeing their language used in marketing materials, product descriptions, and customer support instills a sense of connection and trust. Brands that acknowledge and embrace linguistic diversity are better positioned to establish meaningful relationships with these consumers. 

Cultural Nuances Matter: 

Beyond the language, cultural nuances play a significant role in shaping consumer preferences. Different cultures may have distinct values, habits, and preferences that impact how products are perceived. Brands that take the time to understand and incorporate these cultural nuances into their marketing strategies are more likely to resonate with multicultural consumers. 

For instance, the City of Los Angeles has a Language Access Program aimed at providing equitable access to city services for residents with limited English proficiency. The program includes translated materials, multilingual staff, and language interpretation services to ensure that language barriers do not hinder residents’ access to essential government services. This initiative reflects an understanding of cultural nuances and the diverse linguistic landscape of the city. 

The ‘Can’t Read, Won’t Buy’ Study 

The “Can’t Read. Won’t Buy” study conducted by CSA Research analyzed consumer behavior across multiple markets and languages. The findings revealed compelling insights: 

Language Accessibility Drives Purchase Intent: The study found that 74 percent of consumers are more likely to continue purchasing from a brand that provides post-sales support in their language. This statistic underscores the importance of offering service and support including interpretation services, to your global customers,  to enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty. 

Translation Boosts Conversion Rates: The study also discovered that translating product descriptions and marketing materials can significantly impact conversion rates. Websites that offer content in multiple languages experienced a 55 percent increase in conversions compared to English-only websites. 

Case Studies: Success Stories: 

Many corporate brands and public organizations have successfully embraced the “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy” concept and tailored their approaches to connect with multicultural consumers. 

  1. Coca-Cola: The iconic beverage company has a history of adapting its marketing to diverse cultures. In campaigns around the world, Coca-Cola often tailors its messaging to reflect local languages and cultural norms, fostering a sense of inclusivity. 
  1. IKEA: The Swedish furniture giant has made strides in catering to multicultural consumers by providing multilingual instructions and marketing materials. This commitment to linguistic diversity has contributed to its global appeal. 
  1. New York City Department of Transportation: The New York City Department of Transportation’s (NYC DOT) mission is to provide for the safe, efficient, and environmentally responsible movement of people and goods in the City of New York. NYCDOT has implemented multilingual information across its transit system to cater to the linguistic diversity of its residents. Timely and accurate information in various languages has not only improved the overall transit experience for residents who speak different languages but has also increased ridership and community engagement. NYCDOT also provides the LEP public with both interpretation and translation services, partnering with many agencies and community organizations, including language services companies such as Bromberg & Associates. 

Overcoming Language Barriers with Translation and Interpreting 

To address the “Can’t Read. Won’t Buy” phenomenon, businesses must prioritize language services as part of their global expansion strategies. Here’s how translation and interpreting contribute to overcoming language barriers and driving business success: 

  1. Multilingual Customer Support: Offering telephonic interpreting services for customer support, chat support, or video conferencing, ensures effective communication and builds trust with customers. The “Can’t Read. Won’t Buy” study revealed that 79 percent of customers prefer live support in their language or through an interpreter versus automated translation tools, emphasizing the value of human connection in customer service. 
  1. Website Localization: Adapting website content to target markets through professional translation helps businesses resonate with local audiences. By using relevant keywords in translated content, businesses can improve their search engine rankings and increase organic traffic. 
  1. Marketing and Advertising: Translating marketing materials, including advertisements, social media campaigns, and email newsletters, allows businesses to reach a broader audience and foster brand engagement. By tailoring messages to specific cultural contexts, businesses can resonate with customers on a deeper level. 
  1. Content Localization: Translating product descriptions, reviews, and user-generated content enables businesses to provide comprehensive information to potential buyers. According to the “Can’t Read. Won’t Buy” study, 67 percent of consumers consider high-quality product information important when making purchase decisions. 
  1. Cultural Sensitivity Training: Training your staff to understand and respect cultural differences, fostering an environment that embraces diversity and avoids unintentional cultural insensitivity. 


The “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy” concept underscores the importance of effective communication in attracting and retaining multicultural consumers. As businesses continue to expand globally, understanding and embracing linguistic and cultural diversity will not only enhance market reach but also strengthen the overall brand image. By recognizing the unique needs of multicultural consumers, companies can build lasting relationships and thrive in an increasingly diverse and interconnected world. 

Bromberg & Associates Can Help 

The “Can’t Read. Won’t Buy” concept highlights the crucial role of language in consumer behavior and purchasing decisions. With the support of statistics from the “Can’t Read. Won’t Buy” study, we have explored the impact of language barriers and the importance of translation and interpreting in overcoming them.  

Bromberg & Associates is the world leader in translation and on-demand interpreting, with access to 4,500+ linguists in 200+ languages.  

Please contact us so that we can learn more about the challenges and opportunities you are facing.  

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