Does your site have what it takes to make it in the global marketplace? Answer these few short questions to find out:
1) Can non-English speakers understand the information on your site?
2) Do customers know what currency your prices are displayed in?
3) Can visitors find information that is relevant to their geographic location?
If you answered "No" to any of these questions, you may be missing out on global business.
What many companies forget when designing their e-commerce site is that the www in their Web address stands for World Wide Web. Forrester Research predicts that worldwide e-commerce will reach $6.8 trillion in 2004. Of this worldwide population, Australian users account for only 4 per cent. As well, nearly half of the Internet population is from a non-English speaking background.
With figures like these, it's time to get serious about globalising your Web site.
Here are a few ways to make your site more accessible to a global population.
Translating your Web site is not an easy task. The first question is "to machine translate or not to machine translate". In general, this is a cheaper option but until research into artificial intelligence improves, you may find that your new site does not make a huge amount of sense. There are several companies that provide machine translation software. These include Babylon (www.babylon.com), FreeTranslation. com (www.freetranslation.com) and Systran (www.systranet.com).
If you are looking for a more reliable translation, you can't go past the old-fashioned method. Companies like eTranslate (www.etranslate.com) and iLanguage.com (www.ilanguage.com) provide Web site translation services for Web sites.
Once you have finished your multilingual site, don't forget to register it with international language-specific search engines. Some of these include international versions of Alta Vista, and Yahoo!; www.sol.es/(Spanish); www.speedfind.de/ (German); www.goyoyo.com/(Chinese).
Registering your domain name internationally has many benefits. Firstly, it allows you to create consistent branding across the globe. For example, if you go to www.amazon.com and www.amazon.co.uk, you will see a consistent look and feel. This allows your good name in one location to be leveraged when entering new markets. It also means that customers around the world become familiar with your company.
Secondly, even if you don't have plans for international expansion just yet, you may have in the future. Registering your domain internationally now is a safeguard against the costly exercise of retrieving pirated domain registration. Domains are registered on a first-come, first-served basis. If another party has a legitimate claim, the name may never be recovered.
I know this will sound a bit paranoid, but how would you feel if you went to your domain overseas and found a rival site, or worse still, a site defaming your company? Not too great I imagine. The third reason for registering international domain names is an exercise in public relations, which stops others putting up sites that are not in the best interest of your company.
To find a registrar that can handle the jurisdiction you are looking for, visit www.icann.com. Remember, that most licences need to be renewed each year and many companies do not give you any warning that your domain is up for renewal.
The easier you make it for a customer to make a purchase the more likely they are to buy from you. You are making it difficult if your customer has to spend time calculating the price in their currency. By displaying prices in multiple currencies you are talking to your customers in a financial language they understand.
To handle foreign currencies, you can set up a multi-currency payment processing service such as Pure Global Pay. This allows you to accept credit card payments from your Web site in many different currencies. Consolidating your global infrastructure can save you the costs of setting up overseas companies, developing banking relationships and having separate payment systems.
To take into account cultural differences between users from different countries it's a great idea to post content that is specifically written for the local audience. This allows you to target your clients by offering special offers, local pricing and relevant news and information.
Amanda Mason is the communications manager for Pure Commerce. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org