Minding the "World" in World Wide Web (350 words)
Come 2002, 65.2 percent of Internet users will live outside the United States. Have you considered foreign markets when designing your Web site?
"If you're going to be selling on the Web, you have to think about what it means to be selling in other markets," points out Don DePalma, vice president of corporate strategy for Idiom Inc., a provider of Web globalization solutions, who says he has seen companies try to get away with as little adaptation as simply translating the top levels of their sites. The first hurdle associated with a global Web site is replicating the U.S. site in foreign markets. Over time, the challenge becomes content management multiplied by the number of languages.
"Translation only works until you get to the point of buying. You have to globalize your e-business; this includes respecting national preferences, privacy regulations, as well as currency and shipping issues. This requires deep integration between Web infrastructure and your existing systems," says DePalma.
The reality is that as soon as you go on the Web, you are "irrevocably global." Even if a company has no intention of selling in global markets, its site is accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. If your brand means anything, says DePalma, you must do something to convey good will so you don't come off looking like an ugly American.
How do you globalize your site? Look at what it is you're selling. Does the product make sense for that country? Is it legal, and are there any physical or cultural constraints that would prohibit selling a product in a specific market? For example, if you are selling a product that runs on 110 volts of electricity, you can't sell it in global markets because it is not compatible with overseas electrical outlets.
You also need to consider if it makes sense to do business in a particular country. You don't want to set up an infrastructure for small markets. Look for markets that are demographically correct and where a high degree of the population is online.
—Lisa A. Yorgey