Hotels.com, Hotels.ng and the value of country codes

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I read today about the Nigerian startup Hotels.ng and my first thought was why Hotels.com didn’t already own the Nigerian country code.

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After all, Hotels.com owns country codes for France and Italy and Japan, among others.

But was apparently late to registering country codes for Germany and Netherlands — as well as Nigeria (Africa’s most populous country).

Now, in Hotels.com’s defense, its global brand is “com.” And its global gateway strategy is intended to reinforce this fact; country codes are used as redirects only.

I should also note that Hotels.com finished in the top 10 in this year’s Web Globalization Report Card.

Nevertheless, I’m not convinced that .com is the best global strategy — particularly in emerging markets, where country codes are strong indicators of local companies.

For large multinationals, ccTLDs are trivial expenses, even if you have no short-term plans for using them. Speaking of, the ccTLD for Hotels.bw (Botswana) is for sale for roughly $2,000.

Which leads me to wonder who is going to register the new generic top-level domain .hotels.

This seems like a natural fit for Hotels.com, and yet Booking.com has applied for it (although the application status is on hold).

PS: I recently completed a book (review coming) that talks about the threat that emerging market companies post to established multinationals. I wonder if this is one such future case study.

The top 25 global websites from the 2013 Web Globalization Report Card

Top 25 global websites of 2013

I’m pleased to announce the top-scoring websites from the 2013 Web Globalization Report Card. This is the ninth annual edition of the report and it’s always exciting to highlight those companies that have excelled in web globalization over the years.

Google is no stranger to the top spot, but this is largely because Google has not stood still. With the exception of navigation (a weak spot overall) Google continues to lead not only in the globalization of its web applications but its mobile apps. YouTube, for example, supports a 54-language mobile app. Few apps available today surpass 20 languages; most mobile apps support fewer than 10 languages.

Hotels.com has done remarkably well over the past two years and, in large part, due to its investment in mobile websites and apps. While web services companies like Amazon and Twitter certainly do a very good job with mobile, I find that travel services companies are just as innovative, if not more so.

Philips improved its ranking due to its improved global gateway. And Microsoft and HP also saw gains due to their website redesigns, which also included improved global gateways.

New to the Top 25 this year are Starbucks, Merck, and KPMG.

As a group, the top 25 websites support an average of 50 languages. And while this number is skewed highly by Wikipedia and Google, if we were to remove those websites the average would still be above 35 languages.

The companies on this list also demonstrate a high degree of global design consistency across most, if not all, localized websites. This degree of consistency allows them to focus their energies on content localization, which these companies also do well. And more than 20 of the companies support websites optimized for smartphones.

I’ll have more to say in the weeks ahead. You can download an excerpt here.

And if you have any questions at all, just ask.

 

The best global travel websites

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I’m pleased to announce a new (and free) report focused on the globalization of travel websites.

From American Airlines to Kayak to Wyndham, this report highlights those websites that have the widest global reach and are the most user friendly — regardless of the user’s language or nationality.

Lionbridge sponsored the production of this report and is making the report available for free (registration required).

Lionbridge suggested the websites they wanted to see included but they did not play any role in the analysis of these sites. I’ve been studying many of these companies for years now through the Web Globalization Report Card.

Even if your company is not a member of this industry, you may find this report valuable. Included are a number of general web globalization best practices.

Furthermore, the travel industry includes a handful of companies that have really innovated in regards to the globalization of websites and mobile apps, companies like Booking.com, Hotels.com, and Kayak.

In all, this report scores 71 companies across a seven segments, including hotels, airlines, rental cars, cruise lines, and online travel agencies. Companies include Starwood Hotels, Delta, United, Booking.com, Expedia, Hotels.com, Avis, Sixt, among others.

You can download your copy for free by registering here.

Taking Mobile Global: Tips for Aligning Mobile and Global Web Strategies

Here’s a new article I’ve written for UX Magazine on the importance of aligning global and mobile strategies. Too often, companies develop mobile apps and mobile websites without considering localization requirements.

Here are two previous articles I’ve written for UX Magazine:

 

Hotels.com: The best global travel website

Hotels.com scored highly in the 2012 Web Globalization Report Card.

At 37 languages (in addition to English), Hotels.com is not the language leader in travel, but it’s near the front of the pack. And the company has been a leader  in localizing its websites and apps for mobile web users. Most important, the company maintains a high degree of language parity across devices — an emerging best practice that most companies today overlook. In other words, if you support Russian on your PC website, you had better support it on your mobile app as well. The company also does a good job of ensuring that its mobile sites load quickly, by stripping out extraneous visuals. Performance is another area that is too often overlooked. Today’s New York Times has a good article on  how one second can make a difference in the success of a web or mobile site.

Global consistency has been key to the company’s success — even though there is still room for improvement. The company recently announced the rollout of a globally unified marketing platform beginning with the logo.

You can see the old US logo above and the Greek version here:

And here is the brand new logo below:

A note about the global gateway. As readers of this blog well know, I’m no fan of using flags — particularly to denote languages, that is. But Hotels.com uses flags to denote countries, which is not so bad. In fact, I have often argued that flags can be valuable when it comes to ecommerce — as it provides users a degree of comfort that they are indeed on their local website.

That said, I think Hotels.com should remove the flags — at least within the global gateway list. There are a few reasons for this. First, the flags do not improve usability. When there are so many, the result is just a chaotic mix of colors. When I scan the list I often miss the US flag (which is partly due to how the countries are organized).

Second, there can be geopolitcal tensions over the use of flags, namely over the use of the Taiwan flag in this list. But the use of a flag for Kosovo is also a tense issue.

Finally, there are several “Rest of …(region)” websites included within the list, and instead of a flag we see an empty rectangle.

Apple, by the way, has a similar problem with its use of flags.

But all things considered, Hotels.com is a company worth studying — particularly regarding its global mobile strategy.