Coming up fast: A section for entrepreneurs - Building to last a site that lures in any language

Coming up fast: A section for entrepreneurs - Building to last a site that lures in any language - DILEMMA: I want to attract international customers to my online retail site. Should I translate it into other languages, and which languages are best? How c

by PATRICK DUNNE, 3i
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

DILEMMA: I want to attract international customers to my online retail site. Should I translate it into other languages, and which languages are best? How can I do this cost-effectively? What should be my pricing policy and so on?

ISSUES: Before contemplating the delights of a virtual trip abroad, be sure the site works well in your own country. Even if it does, do you know who your customers are and why they buy? Understanding the economics and mechanics of selling in other countries is easier if you understand your domestic business.

Good intelligence doesn't have to cost lots of time or money, and investing in market research can save you both. Internet usage, web retail volumes in your target market, headline demographics and the local competition are obvious things to check out. Scrutinising what others have done can be instructive, as can finding out who has raised venture capital to do what you are trying to do. All this work makes the choice of countries easier.

Getting the look and feel right needs the input of a local national, who must know the language of your industry. Some countries will be easier than others, not just because the words are the same length but the style of the visuals and the navigation work.

You may not need to translate either. In the Nordic countries, for example, the level of English/internetese is so good that it is probably better to adapt your English site and see what happens. Potential customers may want just the option to buy in local currency with their local credit card. But make sure you get the tax and importation issues sorted out before you price, so that the real cost is competitive.

You need to attract visitors to your site and then fulfil demand. This can be a lot more involved than the web site design. Consider your mix of advertising and PR. Decide how much you should spend and how to come out first on local search engines.

ACTION

- Do your homework and learn from others.

- Map the whole process, especially how to get people to the site.

- Provide the option of buying in local currencies.

- Be culturally sensitive, but be yourself.

- Bear in mind that leading-edge here could be dinosaur there.

- Ask yourself if this is the best thing to spend your money on.

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