Businesses’ E-Commerce Global Gap

Online businesses want to use the Internet to do business globally, but 80 percent of them just aren’t ready. That’s the takeaway from a new survey of business executives by multilingual online marketing agency Oban Digital, Chain Store Age reported.

According to the survey of 204 senior business executives around the globe, 67 percent said that internationalization is a key part of their growth strategy — but only 20 percent of their businesses have adapted all their current online marketing and other customer-facing communications to local cultures and languages. Without that cultural optimization, it’s simply hard to sell online.

At least some marketing communications are customized for international customers, according to 41 percent of the executives polled. But almost 30 percent of the businesses acknowledged that they “did not do enough” when it comes to internationalizing their business communications.

“Businesses need to optimize their digital presence in every local market to assure that they reflect local language, cultural norms and online habits,” said Oban Digital managing director Greig Holbrook. “For example, preferred social platforms and search engine optimization are dramatically different around the world. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.”

The one size that matters is the size of ecommerce sales to consumers, which is expected to reach $1.35 trillion by 2018, according to Statista, while ecommerce exports are estimated to grow to $130 billion by 2020, according to Boston-based OC&C Strategy Consulting.

The study also found that the three most common barriers to internationalization are the cost, the additional time and effort that localization adds to the marketing communications process, and the fact that business leadership doesn’t make internationalization a high enough priority. That’s despite the fact that almost 90 percent of businesses see localization as something they need, and neither too risky or too complicated to achieve.

The surveyed executives also said that responsibility for internationalization is at corporate headquarters, with 46 percent of companies locating it completely in their corporate HQ and just 33 percent having some regional representation.

The executives quizzed by the survey agreed that translation and localization services are the internationalization requirement most in demand. But localization means more than translating into local idioms. As Souheil Badran, SVP and General Manager of Digital River, told MPD CEO Karen Webster last year, would-be international ecommerce retailers need to do their homework, including determining what goes into establishing a local presence and how they can reduce shopping cart abandonment rates.


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