The Internet truly flattens the world… a fact that brings opportunity to U.S. marketers with an international component to their businesses or a desire to do business globally.
Even if you want to make use of email alone, global marketing becomes an inexpensive reality. But the primary place for business to be done on the Internet is, of course, the World Wide Web.
Surf the Web, and you quickly realize that you can very easily happen upon non-U.S. sites. (They are typically identified by a country abbreviation at the end of the URL, such as “.uk” for the United Kingdom.) It is no more complicated to get to a U.S. site from outside this country. All of it is quite transparent and instantaneous.
That is an extremely compelling reason why global Internet marketing — and the e-commerce associated with it — is predicted to escalate so dramatically in the next several years.
Marketers with global goals are now establishing mirror sites and multiple-language versions of their Web sites. Internet translation tools are available that make this easier to do. It is only a matter of time until those marketers use their Web sites to accept and fulfill orders online from customers worldwide.
Here are a few of the possibilities:
- Expanding markets and territories. Marketing no longer has to artificially stop at a country’s borders. An Internet marketing program can make a global initiative not only possible but also practical. A company’s Web site can be mirrored in several languages, and it can address country-specific issues. An intranet can be established to provide low-cost, instant communications with every sales office, sales representative, distributor, and retailer worldwide. An extranet can be used to admit partners, suppliers, and customers into select portions of the intranet. The Web site can be promoted inexpensively throughout the world with links on other Web pages and in email newsletters. Simple, inexpensive mailings can be executed in each target country to drive prospects to the corporate Web site.
- Developing global marketing partnerships. Internet marketing makes joint ventures attractive and easy to implement. A marketer can join together with one or more partners whose products or services complement the marketer’s products or services. Then members of this consortium can pool their resources. They can execute cooperative email campaigns by sharing each other’s lists or form a collaborative Web site that features their solution set. They can also use their own extranets to speed communication with sales and marketing personnel from all participating companies throughout the world.
- Providing worldwide customer service. In an era that emphasizes customer service, a marketer can now use the Internet as the foundation for 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year customer support. The way a company services its business customers differentiates it from its competitors. The Internet can facilitate online customer service centers and provide customer-only information, service, support, and, in the case of software and information, live product. With the advent of Internet telephony, companies will be able to interconnect the Internet and voice response; customer service will take on a new level of quality.
It should be pointed out, however, that despite all the apparent benefits of global Internet marketing, marketers cannot take other countries and their populations for granted. The European countries are a good example. Europeans live on a single continent, have open borders, trade freely, and are moving to a unified European currency. Yet each country retains its distinct personality and its own language. And, in the case of marketing, individuals in each country will likely react differently to promotions.
Other barriers to Internet-related marketing activities will come up. For example, Europeans are generally less likely than Americans to share personal profile information. Stringent privacy regulations covering all of Europe, effective October 2001, will make it illegal to solicit via email without the express permission of the consumer. Accordingly, you cannot assume that an Internet marketing program that works successfully in the United States will automatically succeed globally.
If you are going to make a serious effort to market in Europe or anywhere else in the world, you would do well to learn about the likes and dislikes of the business and consumer populations in each target country as well as understand local languages and regulations.
Going global with Internet marketing makes a lot of sense… as long as you use good sense when you engage in it.