Is English-Centric E-Commerce Missing the Boat?

About 96 percent of e-commerce Web sites are in English, making language more of an obstacle to trade online than it is in the real world, according to new industry reports.

“When it comes to language, the virtual world is far behind the physical
world,” said Geoffrey Ramsey, eMarketer’s Statsmaster. “Put simply, if
you are logging on from, Japan, Kuwait or Brazil, you’re going to have a
tough time understanding the majority of content appearing on your browser,
unless you happen to speak English.”

“In the real world there are only seven countries where English is the
primary language,” Ramsey said, noting that the combined populations of these countries represent about 470 million people, or 8.3 percent of the world’s population and account for over 27 percent of the world’s economy.

eMarketer has released three new reports, titled the eAmericas, eEurope and eAsia Reports, presenting statistical information that offers an overview of the global internet.

The reports found that 78 percent of all Web sites are currently in English and that 70 percent of all Web sites are in the U.S.
The eAmericas Report found that the market in North America is becoming
saturated and that by 2002, North America’s share of active Internet users will shrink to 34.8 percent of the global total.

Latin America will have 26.6 million active Internet users (9.4 percent) by 2002.

The eEurope Report says that Europe (population 387 million) is the next
growth frontier on the Web. By 2002, Europe will have 84 million net users, or 29.9 percent of the world’s total. In Western Europe, only 15 percent of the people speak English as their first language.

The Asia/Pacific Rim region, with more than half the world’s population, (3.3
billion), represents the second largest Internet growth opportunity after
Western Europe, says the eAsia report.

By 2002, Asia will have 61 million net users, or 22 percent of the world’s total.

Japan with 7.6 million online in 1999, will continue to dominate in Asia for
the next several years. In Japan, only 10 percent of the country’s 126
million people speak any English. China, with 1.26 billion people and only 890,000 users in 1998, will see its Internet community grow significantly to 6.7 million by year-end 2000.

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