At Work

Is your website global village-friendly?

In today’s world, where information is at one’s fingertips, a website is essential for businesses and organisations.

Companies that have set their sights on foreign markets, where English is not always the first language, will soon realise that having a multilingual website is most crucial.

Here are reasons why you need a multilingual website:

1 Tap into foreign markets Research carried out by Nielsen NetRatings described foreign Internet markets as “low-hanging fruit”. In other words, with foresight and willpower, one can generate considerable revenue with relatively little effort.

The studies revealed that Internet use in the traditional strongholds of the United States, Germany, Britain and Sweden has reached a plateau. On the other hand, in countries where English is not the native language, such as France, Hong Kong, Italy and Japan, Internet use is increasing exponentially.

As senior analyst Kaizad Gotla of Nielsen NetRatings says: “The easiest opportunities are in countries where Internet usage patterns and user/site relationships are less established. Acquiring users in markets that are currently in their growth stages will lead to a loyal user base that will pay dividends for Internet companies in the future.”

2 Be the leader of the pack

Differentiate your business from that of your competitors. If they do not have multilingual websites, step up and take the lead.

Establish your company or brand abroad before they do so. Eventually, companies without multilingual websites will have to contend with competitors who do. It is hardly surprising that customers would choose the website that “speaks their language”.

3 Be the window to the world

The cost of localising your website into another language is nominal compared with the potential returns. A multilingual website will bring an influx of new customers. By having your site accessible to potentially hundreds of thousands of people, you are showcasing your company across the world. For non-English speaking users looking for your product or service, you will automatically capture their attention.

4 Gain international presence

Having the ability to communicate to a whole new international audience in their own language will create awareness about your brand and your range of services and products. A multilingual website is one of the most cost-effective ways of marketing your company, capturing new users, building relationships with new clients and giving your brand an international presence. It demonstrates that you think, work and deal across cultures and borders.

5 Put in the personal touch

A multilingual website, if designed properly, overcomes potential cultural barriers through allowing access in the local language. This immediately puts the user into a “cultural comfort zone” as he is able to navigate, understand and interact with the website. Consumers who feel at home will be more willing to engage your services or purchase your product.

6 Gain the trust of consumers

For many cultures, there is an issue of trust when it comes to buying over the Internet, especially if the website is in a language they have trouble understanding fully. Offering your products or services in their local language allows customers to feel secure knowing what they are buying, the procedures needed and the people whom they are buying from.

7 Appeal to the popular search engines

Search engines lead people to your site. In China, Japan and France, Google, Yahoo and MSN are not the default search engines. Home-grown search engines are emerging, and they are proving to be successful because they operate in their native languages and are focused on the habits and needs of their users.

Such search engines are a key to tapping those markets and having pages of your site available in their languages will ensure the maximum potential for your site being picked up in searches.

8 Test the waters

A multilingual website is the perfect platform to test the response of a foreign market before you pump in more resources. With a multilingual website, you can communicate with a large audience and yet avoid the need to deal with the printing and distribution costs of having printed collaterals. You can update your website frequently without incurring reprinting costs.

With the far-reaching advantages a multilingual website brings, what does your business have to lose by creating one? - Singapore Straits Times/Asia News Network

·Article by Valencia Seah, a copywriter at Verztec Consulting.