Put the World in World Wide Web
When is the time right for a U.S. direct marketer to develop a multilingual site? A good benchmark is when you have a significant number of unique visitors to your domestic home page from a given locality. Stephen Eustace, assistant vice president of e-marketing products with Equifax Marketing Services, recommends analyzing your Web data to determine which international domain names appear, and how often.
Until recently, the Web site for the International Fund for Animal Welfare had a U.S. focus, but because 35 percent of its online donors now reside outside the United States, it decided it needed to better communicate with its supporters worldwide. To accomplish this goal, the organization is retooling its Web site to speak to and accept donations in the language and currency of 13 countries. Since IFAW unveiled the first of multiple stage improvements to the site, it has picked up a number of new donors in Russia, Holland and Germany.
Once you investigate your marketing opportunities and make a commitment to a particular market, build a storefront and supporting infrastructure.
Many companies with international Web sites design what often is referred to as a “global gateway.” In the report “Design Practices for Global Gateways,” DePalma and co-author Renato Beninatto define a global gateway as “the international entry point to a company on the Web. This entrance is usually located at the main corporate site, using linguistic or visual clues that alert visitors to country specific or translated content.”
“Keep the design simple—particularly if you offer several languages—and quickly direct visitors to the portion of your site published in their local language,” Eustace recommends. “Don’t make them hunt for it, particularly since they may not read the English language,” he urges.
IFAW, for instance, displays flag icons along the top of its home page to direct visitors to country-specific portions of the site. The Sharper Image positions a button labeled “international” on the far right corner of the banner that appears on each page of its site. Visitors can click-through to a page with flag icons that direct them to online stores for each individual country.