The biggest ecommerce day in November? It’s not Black Friday.

In China, November 11th is known as Singles Day and it has quickly become the world’s biggest day for ecommerce.

Tmall, the massive ecommerce website owned by Alibaba is already promoting this day:

tmall_singles_day

Tmall hosts a great number of Western brands that are also eager to capitalize on this day, like Clinique:

Clinique_singles_day

Xiaomi, China’s leading mobile phone company, will most likely sell quite a few phones this day as well.

Singles_Day

Amazon is not content to be a bit player. According to Tech in Asia, Amazon is planning to offer fast international shipping:

…it means that Chinese consumers will be able to shop on Amazon’s US, German, Spanish, French, and Italian stores and have whatever they order shipped directly to China. Amazon China is also launching an “international shopping” feature that should make it more convenient for Chinese customers to shop for goods they want from foreign Amazon shops.

Any retailer serious about succeeding in China cannot ignore Singles Day.

The question is: Will Singles day soon become a global ecommerce day? 

 

Before Amazon enters Sweden it needs a .se country code

Few companies appreciate the value of country codes as Amazon.

As you can see here, Amazon goes a step further and integrates the cccTLD directly into the logo:

amazon logos and country codes

According to a post on Good E-Reader, Amazon has been stymied in its quest to obtain a country code for Sweden. Amazon also doesn’t appear to have Finland (amazon.fi).

Fortunately, Amazon does own Amazon.no and Amazon.dk.

This just goes to show that even many of the world’s largest companies were a bit late to the country code land rush.

If this post is true regarding Sweden, this is a positive sign that Amazon has (at least) a few localized websites in the works.

It’s about time.

 

A look back at the language growth of eBay, Coke, Apple, AmEx and Amazon

Sometimes it’s difficult to see a revolution when you’re standing right in the middle of it.

Which is how I still feel sometimes when it comes to web globalization.

Web globalization feels at times like slow-moving revolution. Every year, companies add, on average, a language or two to their websites. And while one or two languages may not seem all that “revolutionary” at the time, over a number of years, the growth is significant.

Particularly when you take a ten-year perspective.

Shown below are five of the many websites that I’ve tracked since 2004. Note that English for the US is not figured in the counts:

Language growth 2004 to 2014

In 2004, eBay supported just 9 languages; today it supports 25.

American Express went from 24 languages to 40.

Coca-Cola went from 26 languages to 43.

Apple has more than doubled its language count in that time as well, though I believe Apple should be doing much more in this regard; Apple still lags the websites of Samsung, Microsoft, and Google.

What’s important to note is that most companies more than doubled the number of languages they support over this time span. Not just the companies listed here but a good number of the companies in the Report Card.

As for Amazon, it too doubled its support for languages, but  remains well behind the pack in linguistic reach. I’ve long argued that Amazon took its foot off the web globalization pedal prematurely. And now that Apple is selling digital media in more than 50 countries, with Google close behind, I wonder if this is the year we see Amazon start to invest in global expansion again.

The language growth underscores a point I often make regarding web globalization — you need to think about “scale” as early as possible.

That is, will your global template scale? Will your workflows, management structure, vendors, and software scale?

You may be planning to add only one additional languages this year, but as this chart demonstrates, you may be adding 20 languages over the long run.

As I’ve said before, the Internet connects computers but it is language that connects people. This is the revolution going on all around us, though often in slow motion. 

From Russian to Arabic to Chinese, new TLDs have arrived

Cyrillic IDNs

This screen is from a website advertising two new top level domains in Cyrillic.

Here are the two domains and what they represent:

.САЙТ (Website)

.ОНЛАЙН (Online)

Two other domains that were recently approved by ICANN were in Arabic and Chinese:

شبكة  (Network)
游戏  (Game)

This is just the tip of iceberg. Many more non-Latin domains are in the pipeline for approval, the bulk of them being Chinese domains. Amazon and Google are among the many prospective applicants.

Even the Angry Birds creators are getting into the game. Here are the two domains they’ve procured:

.在线 (Online)
.中文网 (Chinese site)

Chinese language TLDs

From this article about the two new Chinese domains acquired by the Angry Birds duo:

…the entrepreneurs see these two new ones as common sense options, as many people already use the terms “___online” and “___Chinese site” when searching for things on the web. For example, a Chinese person might typically search for “Nokia Chinese site” (in Chinese, of course), so it’d make sense for Nokia to buy that new URL. “It’s bringing your brand closer to the search term,” Simon points out.

It’s also argued that the new ‘.online’ and ‘.Chinese site’ options are easier for China’s mobile netizens to write on their smartphones, sticking 100 percent to their Chinese keyboard rather than switching to English to type out, say, “Tmall.com”. China currently has 460 million mobile web users.

According to the ICANN blog post Dawn of a New Internet Era:

It’s no accident that the first tranche of gTLDs to be delegated are all non-Latin strings – or as we officially refer to them, Internationalized Domain Name (IDN) gTLDs. In addition to facilitating competition and innovation through the New gTLD Program, one of ICANN’s key aims is to help create a globally inclusive Internet, regardless of language or region. For this reason, we elected to prioritize the processing of IDN applications and their delegation.

Will these new domains succeed?

I think some of them will, and hugely so. I also think it will take time. And perhaps a few new brand names that lead with these domains instead of using them as fallback domains.

Despite the many criticisms of the gTLD program, as I noted earlier, the Internet needs to open the door for URLs in other scripts.

That door is now open.

 

 

 

How the NSA is threatening the future of Google, Facebook, Amazon and others

NSA Prism

When I read government arguments in defense of the NSA, an oft-repeated line was:

We’re not targeting Americans. We’re targeting foreigners.

Foreigners.

I really dislike that word.

And I’m sure companies like Apple, Google and Facebook do as well.

Why?

Because 80% of Google’s customers are foreigners.

More than 50% of Microsoft’s revenue come from foreigners.

Most of Facebook’s users are foreigners.

Apple gets more than 12% of its revenues from China.

And now these foreigners are well aware that their emails and texts and Facebook posts may have been scanned by the US intelligence industry.

I was asked by a tech company recently about what factors could disrupt their current globalization plans in the years ahead.

The NSA was at the top of my list.

We now see a rush of new and established tech companies around the world to create services that are located entirely out of reach of the US government (no matter how impractical this may appear). According to this WSJ article (reg required):

Three of Germany’s largest email providers, including partly state-owned Deutsche Telekom AG teamed up to offer a new service, Email Made in Germany. The companies promise that by encrypting email through German servers and hewing to the country’s strict privacy laws, U.S. authorities won’t easily be able to pry inside. More than a hundred thousand Germans have flocked to the service since it was rolled out in August.

So what does the COO of Facebook have to say about this?

“We should all be nervous when countries impose costly new requirements on companies as a condition of serving their citizens,” says Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. “It means fragmenting the Internet and putting the economic and social opportunities it creates at risk.”

The companies that are most nervous are the large established players, like, um, Facebook.

For start-ups around the world, this news is actually good news. From the same article:

For small German companies competing against big ones—like online-security company Symantec Corp. and Amazon.com Inc. which provides corporate cloud services—the NSA surveillance program “is a present from heaven,” says Oliver Dehning, chief executive of antispameuropeGmbH, which builds spam-protection software. “It’s kind of an opportunity to strike back and protect our home market.”

The fact is, the Balkanization of the Internet is not a new trend, but the NSA (no thanks to Snowden) accelerated it.

Do foreigners care about their email being scanned?

If the Germans are a leading indicator, perhaps so.

Though this article would indicate that Europeans largely are not concerned about the goings on of the security agencies. After all, it wasn’t just the US government at work here; there were other governments involved.

But I think the threat to US-based tech companies is real (perception, after all, is reality). I think the impact will be felt years from now, when there are new and competitive service providers taking a distinctly local approach to their offerings. This is where global service providers get uneasy. It’s difficult to compete with a “local by design” business when you are a “global by design.”

The sad part about all of this is that China — the poster child of Internet privacy violators — suddenly doesn’t look all that bad.

UPDATE: US tech leaders visited Washington, again, and warned of the Balkanization of the Internet.