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March 2000 vol4

What's the Buzz?


SPECIAL FOCUS: PUTTING THE 'WORLDWIDE' IN THE WEB
Think your Internet business doesn't need to be chasing after international markets? Or if you're already are, are they the right international markets?

To help you answer these questions, this edition of WebPromote Weekly offers data on international markets that are (and will be) some of the biggest. And the article "Use Global English on the Worldwide Web" offers strategy for reaching those markets with your website.

ASIA-PACIFIC ONLINE RETAIL MARKET NEARING CRITICAL MASS
With 10 million consumers who have purchased online and surging Internet use, the online retail market in Asia-Pacific is reaching critical mass, according to a new report form The Boston Consulting Group. The report, "E-tail of the Tiger: Retail E-commerce in Asia-Pacific," surveys the online retail market in Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand.

"The major global online players are starting to turn their eyes to this part of the world," says BCG Vice President David Michael, a co-author of the report. "New entrants now have the opportunity to capture strong revenues as attractive new users start experimenting with online shopping."

The online retail market in Asia-Pacific is still highly concentrated, with the leading 25 players in most countries accounting for more than 60% of overall revenue, according to the report. Some markets and categories--such as computer hardware and software, financial services, and travel--are already starting to get crowded, while others remain open.

Total online retail revenue in Asia-Pacific for 1999 was $2.8 billion, compared to $3.5 billion in Europe and $36.6 billion in the United States. But the region's revenue grew 200% in 1999, and BCG projects it will grow to more than $7 billion this year. Online retail's penetration of the total retail sector is only 0.1%, compared to 1.2% in the United States.

Three countries account for 94% of the total Asia-Pacific online retail market: Japan, $1.5 billion; Korea, $720 million; and Australia, $380 million. Most other Asia-Pacific countries have online retail revenue of less than $30 million.

EUROPEAN CONSUMER INTERNET ACCESS GROWING FASTER THAN EVER
Europe's consumer Internet industry is growing faster than ever before, according to a report from Datamonitor. The 25 million Western European households with Internet access will grow to 64 million by 2004, according to the fifth edition of Datamonitor's "PC-Based Consumer Internet Access in Europe."

Recent growth in many European markets has been driven by dropping access costs. Scandinavian markets, where the consumer Internet market is most advanced, will have the slowest growth this year. Datamonitor projects the Spanish market will grow by 85%, three times as quickly as in Sweden. By the end of 2000, 18% of Spanish households and 40% of Swedish households will have PC-based Internet access, Datamonitor predicts.

LOCALIZATION OR ENGLISH?
Does your website need to be translated to numerous different languages in order to reach these and other international markets? That's the question Martin Schell addresses in "Use Global English on the Worldwide Web" in this week's edition of WebPromote Weekly. Schell's answer differs from one put forward earlier this year by Jim Wanek in his article, "Global Marketing Can't Be Done Just In English.

Use Global English On The Worldwide Web
Many Internet marketers seeking international sales are paying website localization companies to translate their websites into numerous different languages. In fact, a recent article in WebPromote Weekly recommended Internet marketers translate their sites into the languages of all countries or regions they hope to do business in ( February 2000 Volume 1).

Translating Web content into multiple languages ignores some of the developing realities of the World Wide Web, as well as some important cost considerations. Many companies' international sales goals can be accomplished using global English instead of localized translation.

THE REALITY OF THE WEB
Localization presupposes that consumers in different cultures need to read content in their own language. But increasingly, English is used throughout the world.

English's popularity is somewhat intertwined with global mass culture. Hollywood movies, rock music and fast food give concrete meaning to bits of English to millions of people who are not fluent in it. In many countries, it is trendy for youths to sprinkle English words in their speech or on their clothing.

On the Web, English is already the language of choice. More than 86% of the 1 billion Web pages are in English, according to an Inktomi survey, cited in the Feb. 7 edition of NUA Internet Surveys.

Another consideration is expense. Localization is costly, with the cost rising as a document is localized into more languages and dialects. Eventually, the marginal returns from localization diminish; the extra market share gained by translating content into additional languages will not generate enough revenue to make localization into those languages profitable.

HOW MANY ARE LEFT OUT?
Human beings speak thousands of languages, including more than 200 languages that each have more than 1 million speakers. It's not feasible to translate a document into all of them, so the question becomes, How many people are going to be left out?

Even though more than a dozen large languages have already passed the 100 million mark, website localization is almost always confined to five or six languages that cover linguistic groups representing high numbers of Internet users.

This list of languages will have to be expanded for a localization strategy to remain effective in the long term. For example, Internet use is increasing rapidly in places like Indonesia, Pakistan, Thailand and the Philippines. But the national languages of these large countries are rarely included in the list of options offered by localization companies.

And even the short-term value of localizing websites may be overblown. Only 8% of Hispanic-American Internet users prefer Spanish-language websites, according to a recent survey conducted by Puerto Rican firm Research & Research.

The survey found that 41% of Hispanic-American Internet users prefer English-language websites, while 51% said they were bilingual and would visit and purchase from sites in either English or Spanish. This means that 92% of Hispanic-American Internet users feel comfortable with English websites, despite the fact that 63% of this 5 million-strong market segment was born outside the United States.

AN ALTERNATIVE APPROACH
A more cost-effective way to ensure that people from all linguistic backgrounds have a reasonable chance of comprehending your website is to use global English. Global English is different from American English because it does not include the jargon and figures of speech particular to America.

The influence of American English will continue to diminish; the proportion of Americans on the Web has already dropped to less than 50% of the global online population. But global English is likely to remain the dominant language of the Worldwide Web for many years to come.

To communicate in global English, marketers must change their linguistic habits, becoming more aware of the perceptions of the non-native speakers of English who use the Web. It is essential to write Web content in clear, globally understood English: smoother sentence structure, fewer idioms, less jargon.

Here's an example of Web copy in American English:

"Users pick what they like from a wide variety of fun looks and music styles and Style Finder returns product suggestions based on individual preferences. Which is just the right feature for users who want what works."

Here's that copy translated into global English:

"Users choose what they like from a wide variety of attractive clothing displays and music styles. The Style Finder then returns product suggestions based on their individual preferences. This convenient feature is exactly what online shoppers want."

Streamlining your English will have minimal effect on your style but it will greatly enhance the ability of Web users around the world to understand your website. If someone's native language is not among the handful that you've chosen to localize into, he would much rather read global English than English that is full of buzzwords, euphemisms and unexplained acronyms.

WHY IT WORKS
There are two reasons why global English works on the Web. First, people who are incompletely fluent in English usually can read it more easily than they can speak it. They can go over written words several times at their own pace and use a dictionary.

Secondly, content can be translated locally if necessary--but more casually. For example, someone would download one of your English pages and then ask a bilingual friend to explain its essential details in his native language.

The bottom line is that it will always pay for you to have your website written in clear, globally understood English. If you later decide to localize your content for a specific market, global English will be easier for your translator to work with, thereby saving you time and money. And if your website attracts visitors who cannot read any of its localized versions, they will appreciate the fact that your English version is easier to understand than most other sites.

By Martin A. Schell

Martin A. Schell is the director of Universal Web, a Web content editing service operated by American Services In Asia. Email: schell74@alumni.princeton.edu. "

YAHOO'S BIG IN JAPAN
Yahoo is the most visited Web property among Japan's Internet users, according to Nielsen//NetRating's first report on that country's Internet audience, released earlier this month.

For the month of February, Yahoo's reach of the Japanese Internet market was 54%, and its unique audience was 3.4 million. Reach indicates the unduplicated audience that visits a property. Behind Yahoo was NEC, with a reach of 30% and a unique audience of 1.9 million.

The rest of the top 10 Web properties, in descending order, were: MSN, Sony Online, GeoCities, Dream Train Internet, Nifty Corp., Lycos Network, Hi-Ho Internet Service and Goo.

Top banners on Japanese websites had a click-through rate of 1.96%. The top 10 advertisers for the period were: Microsoft, Yahoo, Communication Online Inc., The Nomura Securities Co. Ltd., Goo, ERGO-BRAINS. LTD, Okasan Securities Co. Ltd., E*TRADE Japan Securities Inc., Sofmap Co. Ltd., and Daiwa Securities Co. Ltd.

 
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