RealTime IT News

Web Publishers Embrace International Growth

Terra Networks' recent $12.5 billion purchase of Lycos Inc. illustrated a continuing drive by portals to broaden their focus in an effort to stand out in a crowded pack. The latest statistics indicate one of the biggest future trends is likely to be a move to reach outside the U.S. to nations with their own fast-growing Net populations.

So far, online global marketing has barely reached its peak. According to the GartnerGroup Inc., worldwide B2B e-commerce, which hit $145 billion in 1999, is projected to surpass $7.29 trillion in 2004.

A plethora of niche Web sites currently focus on marketing to specific ethnic groups. More of these specialized sites are coming to the fore. To say the least, the global marketplace, each day, is becoming smaller and more competitive.

"There is a lot of demand from consumers and business in geographies outside of North America," noted Don DePalma, vice president of corporate strategy for Idiom, a provider of Web globalization solutions for e-business. "There really is no longer a choice about globalizing your business. That decision has already been made for you. Even if you are getting traffic with an English-only site today, you may be losing out on the future."

DePalma advises international marketers to focus on the four "Ps": product, positioning, price and promotion. "You have to have a product that makes sense and you have to have a product that travels well," he said. "Customization is also key. You need to meet the needs of different cultural communities within the U.S. as well as in different countries. Through technology, Web sites can now reach out to domestic and foreign consumers who may have never had the opportunity to shop online before in their native or preferred language."

Asia-Links.com has taken that advice to heart. The company, an Asian portal site, markets electronics products between North America and Asia.

"We provide American business with instant access to electronic component buyers and suppliers throughout Asia," said Tri Phan, director of marketing, who believe his company to be the first Asian-focused B2B portal.

"By bringing manufacturers and suppliers together, the pricing value becomes significant. Suppliers are able to choose from the manufactures they want or who have an inventory of out-of-stock parts, and the site can also handle RFQs for those who are looking for a bid on a particular item, such as memory chips for a particular product."

Marketing to two distinctly different cultures is no easy task, Phan admitted. "There are misperceptions about doing business overseas. People are wary of any overseas transaction" he said. "In Asia, people tend to prefer more personal relationships, even with business transactions. But, the Internet has helped to open that up. With the recent downfall and recovery of the Asian marketplace, we are helping to bridge relationships."

HelloAsia.com positions itself as a business site geared to servicing Asian portals. The company rewards users throughout Asia for their social and ecommerce relationships. "The portal was developed and personalized for consumers in Asia and features AsiaMail, an email solution in multiple Asian languages, and AsiaRewards," explained Jim Preissler, vice president of strategy. "Members earn AsiaReward points for engaging in activities such as shopping, communicating and participating in special events. Rewards include travel, entrainment and variety of consumer goods and electronics."

Indeed, Asian sites are pumping up the volume on B2B e-commerce. Gartner Group anticipates Asia to leap into B2B with a vengeance and forecasts that the region's B2B e-commerce will soarto $9