How language is having a larger effect on corporate sales and brand

March 9, 2015
Translation reviewed by David Mein – david500500@gmail.com

Recently, a slew of retail stores have closed or have announced that they will (Parasuco, Jacob, Sony stores, Mexx, Smart Set, and others) and this might just be the beginning. What we have seen over the past few years is part of a strong trend: e-commerce has become so important that it is seriously impacting the sales of brick and mortar stores. This bad news, however, actually has a surprising side effect: language and proper writing is increasingly taking the forefront of a business’s success. Here’s how.



In the past, you would experience a (new) brand by visiting its “physical” store. Companies understood this and designed the store layout and signature so that you, the consumer, would have a positive experience. The salesperson or clerk would be kind and would possess the skills to convince you verbally to have confidence in their product and company. Well, e-commerce changes all that. When buying online, consumers now undergo a virtualexperience. I personally buy most of my books and electronic devices online, and I am pretty much convinced that I will be buying my food and clothes online as well in a few years from now. How about you?

So, what does that really mean for retail stores? Everything! Nowadays, the credibility of a B2C enterprise is driven less by how employees behave in front of customers, and more and more by the quality of a corporate website’s content, especially its text.

Here are 5 solid arguments that should convince you:
  • One surefire way to recognize fraudulent emails is to look for spelling mistakes! A message telling you, for example, that you need to verify your bank account data will most often contain at least one spelling or grammatical mistake. This is a sign that you are undoubtedly dealing with a fraudulent email.
  • In 2011, the BBC reported that a British e-commerce business doubled its online sales by simply correcting one spelling mistake. According to French and British reports, poor language used on e-commerce websites results in millions of dollars in lost opportunities[1].
  • In 2014, a survey conducted by Kibin revealed that 43% of Americans had a negative first impression of people that have poorly written content, while 35% had a positive impression of people that have well-written content[2].
  • Companies leveraging blogs to increase their visibility face the same issue. According to a study from Clemson University, the more spelling mistakes a blog article contains, the less likely readers will find its content and its author credible[3].
  • Even worse: GooseGrade concluded from its 2008 study that 64% of readers will NOT share an article or blog post that contains spelling mistakes[4]. I personally don’t share poorly written content, even something that I find interesting, simply because I do not want others to think I am endorsing a bad text.

What should we conclude from all of this? Readers, that is, consumers form their impressions of an author or a company by reading its web content. In an e-commerce era where the user experience is shifting more and more from physical to virtual environments, language is having an increasingly significant impact on reputation, sales and brand. And we are just beginning to measure this impact.

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