SOURCE: Conversis

October 17, 2007 10:00 ET

Conversis Study Reveals Achilles Heel of the Billion Dollar Localization Industry

New Research Outlines Unfulfilled Potential of the Localized Websites of Top Multinationals and Localization Service Providers

SEATTLE, WA--(Marketwire - October 17, 2007) - Localization World Conference -- Conversis, a leading provider of localization and global branding solutions, today announced the completion of a potentially controversial new research study that analyzes the website localization best practices of Multinational Enterprises (MNEs) as compared with localization service providers. Authored by Nitish Singh, Associate Professor of Marketing at the Boeing Institute of International Business, St Louis University, this commissioned research argues that top multinational enterprises are demonstrating a disconnect between the claimed importance of localization and the actual level of localization achieved by the international versions of their corporate websites.

The research revealed inconsistent or poor use of web development standards and other elements that help tailor website content for local audiences, such as country-specific domain names and global gateway pages that are easy to find via search.

Singh's study went further to show that localization service providers themselves actually fared worse on objective measures of localization than the clients they serve.

"The commercial market for localization services is in the billions," said Nitish Singh. "With this study, we set out to gauge just how successful not only multinationals, but also localization vendors themselves have been in developing multilingual and multicultural content for their websites that can help them tap this booming global market. We have found that the industry is not practicing what it is preaching."

The research was structured around an analysis of various elements found on the websites of 53 localization service providers, out of an original pool of 156 providers, and the 300 country websites of 100 MNEs. For both targets, the study measured localization efforts on their English, German and Spanish websites.

Multinational enterprises on the whole also failed to live up to executives' expectations for website localization. The survey data shows almost 90 percent of executives feel they have localized their international sites and 88 percent consider localization services crucial to successfully doing global business. However, a content analysis of the German and Spanish versions of these companies' websites showed that only 12.5 percent were fully localized for those countries.

One simple indicator of a company's localization is its use of country code top level domains (ccTLD) unique to each international site, such as .de or .es versus .com. The use of ccTLD helps optimization in international search engines, and shows the company's commitment to that country's specific market. On this measure, the study found that fewer than 27 percent of multinationals surveyed were fully using ccTLD for their international website URLs. Analysis of localization industry vendors showed that none were using ccTLD fully, and 42 percent were not using it at all.

When it comes to content localization, the results were even less promising:

--  Local customer support and contact
    24 percent of multinationals had local customer support contacts
    equivalent to U.S.-based support available for their international
    websites. Only 4 percent of localization vendors had the same.

--  E-Commerce and information use policies
    This was a comparatively strong area for multinationals, with nearly
    half of companies surveyed having complete e-commerce and information
    use policies tailored to each of their international websites.
    Localization industry vendor websites, on the other hand, had no
    international e-commerce or information use policies available in
    almost 70 percent of cases.

--  Navigational ease equivalent to U.S. English site
    In an analysis of navigational ease (such as functional sitemaps,
    localized search and navigation buttons), both multinational and vendor
    websites were found to be poorly localized. Only 26 percent of
    multinationals had international site navigation equivalent to their
    U.S. English sites, while fewer than 8 percent of localization service
    providers did.

The study also evaluated companies' use of culturally appropriate and customized graphics, symbols, colors, and other cultural markers. Although research has suggested that cultural customization of websites improves attitude and intention toward online buying, only 20 percent of multinationals were evaluated as "localized" or "highly localized" in this area. For localization service providers, the results were much worse, with only 2 percent of companies evaluated as such.

"Vendors and the large companies we service have the complicated task of delivering relevant content to very specific audiences, in formats that are easy to find and navigate," said Gary Muddyman, Managing Director and CEO of Conversis. "We collaborated on this study because we saw a need for some fresh data that could be used to reveal common pain points in order to help improve the e-business practices of every player in the localization industry."

"It is concerning that companies selling localization services are actually localizing their own sites to a much lesser extent than the multinational companies that tend to be their clients," said Singh. "If the localization industry wants to keep its competitive position, vendors need to expand the definition of localization to include interface usability, cultural customization, and internationally relevant branding, advertising, and business strategy. Neither the vendors nor their clients are quite there yet."

About Conversis

Founded in 2003 and based in the United Kingdom, Conversis is a leading provider of Globalization, Internationalization, Localization and Translation (GILT) services, tailoring business needs to each company's relevant markets worldwide. Serving clients in more than 30 markets worldwide, Conversis is dedicated to advancing the understanding and use of GILT as a strategic business tool. More information can be found at:

About the Study

During the past several years a whole industry (The Localization Industry) has grown up around helping companies design multilingual websites and software applications for different countries. An industry report estimates the size of the worldwide translation and localization services market at US$ 8.8 billion (Beninatto and De Palma, 2005). This study was organized into three sections:

--  A survey of Multinational executives involved in web localization,
    principally to understand the impact of localization on organizational
    effectiveness, as measured by revenues, market growth and customer
--  A content analysis of the number of countries and languages
    Multinationals are targeting online, as well as the various web development
    standards and elements they are using to achieve localization, including:
    country code top level domains (ccTLD), global gateway pages, customer
    support, e-commerce and information use policies, customer support, webpage
    structure/layout, and locale-specific graphics, colors and values;
--  A comparison of MNE websites with the elements found on the websites
    of localization service providers.

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