By Huiping Iler
A few days ago I was browsing through Google News and read a story on Toys “R” Us’ plan to sell its global toy division. The story got me interested right away. What would Toys “R” Us do without its toys division? How did a company once at the supremacy of the toy business become so battered to be forced to sell its core business?
“They killed off all their competition, like Child World and Kiddie City, and declared victory worldwide. But they never saw Wal-Mart catching up.” Burt Flickinger, a retail consultant, said of the Toys “R” Us announcement.
“Being blind sight to change is a liability no company can afford to have,” I murmured quietly to myself. Then I started to reflect on my own business and the translation industry that it is in. An increasing part of our business is web site translation, as many companies pursue their global presence on the web. Yet few people fully understand the impact of the global web on commerce and business in general. For an enterprise operating in the information age, failing to see the opportunities embedded in the global web is as fatal as any retailer dismissing the arrival of discounter like Wal-Mart.
So in what aspects does the global web impact business? How can we use it to embark on new opportunities and save cost on running our existing business?
1. The global web is the most affordable, hardest working sales force you will ever put together.
“The key difference between commerce and e-commerce is that commerce is selling with people and e-commerce is selling with content.” Articulates Gerry McGovern in his landmark book Content Critical. An information rich, well published global web site sells your products and service to potential clients around the world in their native language 24/7.
Today’s well informed consumers do not want to be disturbed by sales people. “I will go to you when I have the need” is the general attitude. It is then, your responsibility as the marketer of your organization, to be there to be found when your customers are looking. What could be better than a well organized, easy to navigate web site with information rich articles that answers every possible question your customer might have? Furthermore, the information is presented to the reader in their native tongue to achieve maximum effect.
2. The global web helps you save on support cost.
Every web globalization guru has this golden rule in their advice book: you should be prepared to support the markets that you sell to. Depending on the scale of your business, hiring support workers who speak the languages of your markets may be unavoidable. But how much you can use the web to reduce support cost will be the differentiator between good and great.
In his book Direct from Dell, one reoccurring point that Michael Dell makes is how important it is to use the internet to its fullest in every aspect of Dell’s business. Product differentiation, though possible, will be increasingly difficult. The true differentiator will be business process innovation, in Dell’s opinion.
So how do you incorporate the global web into your process? One example is to step into your customers’ shoes and devise a comprehensive FAQ that answers most of their questions. If people’s questions are answered, then they won’t be calling up your support line as often and free up your workers allowing them to engage in value generating activities for your organization.
3. The global web with local content brings you local presence.
Without local content, your web site won’t appear in the search results of local Google or Yahoo searches. Without appearing in the search results, you are not found by your local customers. The global web helps you overcome this hurdle. Having either translated or original local content buys an admission ticket to the local search results. For any company that operates in the internet domain or wishes to strengthen brand awareness locally, the admission ticket is worth having.
Recently I read a real life case study posted on webmasterworld.com on the search engine success of an eight room motel in Fort Lauderdale (http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum18/265.htm?highlight=fort+lauderdale). Its traffic log revealed that 72% of its site visitors came from search engines. The small site was showing up in the first or second page of search results for highly competitive terms such as “Fort Lauderdale,” “Florida,” and “Fort Lauderdale hotels” in European versions of Yahoo and Google. So what is the secret of their success? It was so simple: the site was available in three languages: English, German and Swedish. This is quite something, isn’t it?
4. The global web facilitates innovation and learning by delivering training to corners of the world that physical classrooms cannot reach.
“Look at learning as a necessity, not a luxury.” Recommends Michael Dell. Being a ferocious learner is the pre-requisite of becoming a leader and one of the most noticeable personal traits of any successful individual. As more organizations become increasingly scattered physically, class room teaching is not always practical. The global web delivers valuable material to those in need, in a language they can understand, at a time when they are available and willing to learn.
In the last year, we have translated a few operations manuals for organizations that have a diverse work force. As usual, we don’t hear much from the clients after the projects are complete. But I cannot stop thinking of the foresight these organizations have. At first glance, translating the manual might have meant a few thousand dollars in investment, but if you look closely, the investment quickly earns itself back by preventing operational errors every day, month and year. Each of these errors might have cost the organizations thousands of dollars. If such valuable information is like milk, then the global web is a powerful distribution network that disperses milk quickly before it goes bad and loses its value. More and more, we are seeing organizations train its diverse global work force through the web using e-learning methods.
5. The global web helps build corporate culture.
Whether it is recruiting the best and brightest to work for your company, or articulating of strategy, the global web is the ideal platform. Many job hunters use the web to “check out” a company. Your company’s ability to attract the best fit candidates may largely depend on the image your web site presents to the candidates. The content of your web site speaks volumes about the diversity of your organization, your philosophy and work atmosphere. As the North American society becomes much more multicultural, your organization’s ability to attract top notch ethnic talent becomes the “new frontier.” How you fare on the new frontier largely depends on your ability to understand your new audience and speak their new language.
The global web is the greatest driving force of new business opportunities today. Those who realize its full impact and know how to use it will prosper. Those who don’t will perish.