Put the World in World Wide Web
The Internet Has No Borders, so How WIll You Handle Global Traffic?
The balance is shifting. As few as five years ago, the majority of the world’s Internet users lived within U.S. borders, making it comfortable for direct marketers to conduct transactions in U.S. dollars and English only. Today, the lion’s share of Internet users live outside the United States, which truly makes the Web a global medium.
The worldwide Internet population, according to the Computer Industry Almanac, has reached 945 million, and is projected to reach 1.46 billion come 2007. Of current worldwide Internet users, only 20 percent reside within the United States.
This means you could be missing opportunities to sell your product or service to 80 percent of the world’s Internet population.
Define Your Global Ambition
If you are interested in targeting a specific region or country, conventional wisdom dictates you offer content in the local language of your target audience.
In his book “Business Without Borders,” Don DePalma quotes former West German Chancellor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Willy Brandt: “If I’m selling to you, I speak your language. If I’m buying, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen.”
“When people purchase from home, they are looking for a local experience,” says DePalma, founder of Common Sense Advisory, an international research and consulting firm, and a former principal analyst at Forrester Research.
To demonstrate what it’s like for foreigners shopping on a U.S. site, he gives the example of a typical U.S. consumer shopping for a Dell computer on a Japanese Web site. He might have some basic understanding of what is being offered, but likely won’t attempt to make a purchase. He’d have a better understanding of the product as described in English on Dell’s U.K. site, but may incur problems with transaction elements, such as pricing in British pounds and an address template not formatted for U.S. addresses. It’s only on Dell’s U.S. site that the consumer achieves a complete understanding of the product and is more likely to make a purchase.