When the volume of overseas orders begins to rise, it's probably time to translate your Web site into a foreign language or even take the extra step to "localize" it (transform the entire Web site into a foreign version).
Localization requires a translation software program or service. Two popular translation software companies are Systran Softwareand Lernout & Hauspie. Both systems offer link services that you can embed in your Web site, allowing visitors to hit a button and receive a translated page. These services may cost from $200 to more than $1,000 per month, depending on fees designed by the provider.
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Instead of merely translating a site, however, you'll need to develop a site that includes local payment systems, legal information and freight costs. Localization services can help with these issues--find them by doing a basic Internet search. Lernout & Hauspie offers a popular service that assigns consultants to companies--but the company's services can cost several thousand dollars per month, depending on languages or content. So when choosing localization or translation services, look for someone who understands the particular foreign culture and who can ensure your site translations are clear and inoffensive.
"You should get someone involved who knows the language and can help you avoid saying something that you didn't realize you were saying," says Jim Foley, an international-trade specialist in Peoria, Illinois, and author of The Global Entrepreneur. If localizing your site is too costly, try a low-cost affiliate marketing program instead. That way, your company piggybacks on a Web site that sells complementary products in the foreign market.
But remember, says Chris Anne Wheeler, vice president of Information Services for ActivMedia Research, a marketing firm in Peterborough, New Hampshire, that specializes in e-commerce issues for companies, "Spending large amounts in those foreign markets where e-commerce is behind that of the U.S. shouldn't be the focus of your marketing activity."
Melissa Campanelli is a technology writer in Brooklyn, New York, who has covered technology for Mobile Computing & Communications and Sales & Marketing Management magazines. You can reach her at email@example.com.