Successful Global E-Commerce: Art or Science?

Challenges facing online retailers when selling overseas

Global e-commerceMany pioneering companies have successfully implemented e-commerce solutions to either augment their existing sales channels, or as their sole sales channel. These companies are leaders in reaping the commercial benefits of the Web. As highly efficient revenues flow through their e-commerce channels, they look at expanding their global capabilities — particularly where traditional sales channels costs are prohibitive.

One may say, “But the World Wide Web is global, since everyone on the Internet has access to it.” True, but Internet access and recognized sales are two different things. It has been noted that international customers are three times more likely to buy a product if it is available and communicated to them in their own language. Furthermore, an e-commerce Web site has to provide international users with the same quick access to information as domestic users, or you will quickly lose their attention.

Companies that have successfully implemented an e-commerce solution in the U.S. and are now looking at penetrating international markets have to deal with many issues before they truly have a global e-commerce solution. The four that are often overlooked are: Locale, Process, Performance and Service.

Locale and Language Barriers

English is the language most widely used over the Internet. But to truly penetrate an international market, one has to communicate in the customer’s language. Web pages can be converted to different languages via a process known as web localization. Localization is the linguistic adaptation of a product for specific geographic markets. In addition to the linguistic and cultural challenges that this conversion presents, localizers have to deal with many technical challenges.

As new Web technologies emerge, more options are becoming available to content developers and webmasters. Different file formats, databases, graphics, forms, and software scripts such as CGI and Java are all intermixed into creating current Web pages. Furthermore, to reduce rework, many of today’s Web sites are based on dynamic HTML, as opposed to static HTML, where information drawn from databases is displayed on demand. Pages are built on the fly on users’ browsers, automatically customized to best meet their needs.

Companies involved in localization have to recognize the need to adapt and continuously expand their localization processes to efficiently deal with the requirements of today’s advanced Web technologies. The process has to be organic to allow for changing file formats without sacrificing flexibility to translators or translations already implemented. By no means should the process hinder the ability of professional native translators to adapt the text and pages to meet local requirements. For the process to be effective, it should separate the art from the science and enable the appropriate resources to deal with each aspect of the process.

Synchronized Sites

Global e-commerceEven with the technical and language expertise, how can one guarantee that localized Web sites track the English server on a continuous basis? Webmasters and content developers regularly update thousands of files and data. To be able to synchronize the localized sites to the English one requires a very detail oriented process.

Welcome to the world of enterprise wide e-commerce framework tools. Companies are clamoring to provide software solutions to serve files and manage translation segments. They are customized database and RCS environments that track translatable segments, create connectors with translation environments and rebuild the localized files.

When you are dealing with thousands of files that can be changing on a daily basis, it becomes almost impossible to track and maintain localized Web sites without the use of enabling framework solutions. These solutions can either be acquired or internally implemented. But they have to be there.

Mirrored Sites for Global Fast Access and Local Service

Once a site is localized and kept in sync with the source, the final implementation step is to serve it to its international users. U.S.-based servers may be too remote, slow or overcrowded for international surfers. The ideal solution is to mirror the site on international servers available locally to their users.

One way to do this is to create servers in all the countries the e-commerce solution is provided for. However, this process can be costly in hardware and maintenance expenditures. Another way is to outsource this requirement to third parties that are servicing companies in this area. Cloud-based hosting companies are providing a solution to their customers by having servers worldwide available to mirror their sites. For a fee, they host, manage and maintain the sites as necessary.

Delicate Balance

Closing business is very important, but satisfied customers are key to repeat business. Your global e-commerce solution may need to provide a pre and post sale service for returns, refunds and questions. Make sure this aspect is well thought out.

Companies often win business by paying extra attention to the needs of their customers. Once an e-commerce site is successful in conveying that attention, it is proven to drastically cut down sales expenses. Those who pay extra attention to details and invest up front win in the long run and save.

With this concept in mind, it is important not to forget to customize information to cater to the international user’s way of life. Customized forms, currencies, tax, date and time structures, contact information, payment methods, text entry, pertinent information, and a host of culturally sensitive details all need to be implemented appropriately for the different countries, even when the language does not change. The human touch in the sales process needs to be present at all times, regardless of the channel in use. Again, it is the right balance of art and science that will make you successful.

Translation Company USA

If you are looking for local translation services or a US translation company, make sure you identify one that can be a long term partner for you and that can address the many localization challenges that you will encounter.

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