A Word to the Wise: Multilingual Means Multi-Dollars

A new industry research report states conclusively that for U.S., companies,
multilingual e-commerce and business sites “are no longer optional.”

In fact, e-businesses these days need to build a centralized palette of
software to gain leverage, consistency and speed while letting local offices
choose which components to implement and in which language, says the report
from Forrester Research.


Successful companies will use in-country teams to customize applications to
meet local needs, using translation to keep content ethnocentric, the report
says.


“Since (an estimated) 50 percent of all online sales will be (made) outside
the U.S. by 2004, building a multilingual site has become critical —
particularly to those companies serious about winning in the Internet
economy,” said Eric Schmitt, analyst at Forrester Research.

“When offered in multiple languages, customer service features like product
data sheets and technical FAQs provide differentiation, build brand loyalty
and cut support costs.”

By 2003, Forrester predicts, a set of globalization software and services
will emerge as Web-based localization ascends and legacy translation agencies
diminish.

To implement multilingual sites, Forrester believes companies should design a
global site infrastructure, including a set of applications that can be
customized for any language or country. A core set of software will provide a
global, corporatewide foundation for all sites in any language.

Applications
will be centrally managed, belonging to a single global technology team.
Firms will enhance these software palettes with interactive
applications that support multiple tax and payment frameworks and are
anchored by a worldwide publishing system.

The next step in building global site infrastructure involves localized
application modules that enable firms to implement applications in a new
language or locale, Forrester said. Modules will contain locale-specific
information needed to give applications a native look and feel, and they will
also make it possible for local Web teams to administer the software.

“For help building multilingual sites, firms will look for strategy and
integration services but shouldn’t neglect help from globalization
specialists,” Schmitt said. “These specialists will enable firms to make
their e-commerce systems international, as well as prepare applications for
deployment in new markets.”

For the report, “The Multilingual Site Blueprint,” Forrester interviewed 27
U.S.-based multilingual-site owners.

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