Viking Reaches the World By Web (1,864 words)
The lion's share of Internet users will live beyond U.S. borders come 2003. As reported by eMarketer's eGlobal Report, the number of active Internet users worldwide will increase 178 percent over the 1999 year-end total by 2003. It is projected there will be 361.9 million Internet users by then, nearly two-thirds of whom will live outside the United States.
The growth of the Internet in the rest of the world spells unbridled opportunity for U.S. direct marketers with expertise in doing business globally. While it has taken down borders, the Internet hasn't changed the culture of your target audience. Here's a look at how two different companies—a direct marketer and a dot-com—approached a global audience, and their successes and failures.
Viking's Online Adventure
An international direct marketing pioneer, Viking Office Products has catalog operations in 10 countries outside the United States. In three of these markets—the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands—its e-commerce sites have individual URLs, and the company plans to launch another site in Italy this summer. By year's end, all countries in which Viking markets will have an e-commerce site, according to its Chief Executive Officer Bruce Nelson.
A wholly-owned subsidiary of Office Depot, the office-supplies cataloger is a decentralized operation that opens an in-country facility for each market it enters. To compete with local retailers, it stocks products for each market in local warehouses and offers either same-day or next-day delivery. Each in-country operation has its own manager and enjoys great autonomy. Top management dictates customer satisfaction metrics, but how each country does it—from hiring to creative—is determined by the country manager.
A Country-by-Country Approach
One of Viking's keys to international success is speaking to customers in their native language. Each communication—whether by phone, fax, Web or print catalog—is created in the local language of its audience.