As the end of 2004 draws near, I feel compelled to toss in a few predictions for the year ahead…
Web Globalization Goes Mainstream
Based on surveys Ive conducted, discussions with executives at Fortune 500 companies, and a few recent discussions with reporters, the signs are pointing toward a very public year for the field of Web globalization. You may remember that Web globalization was a hot topic back in the heady days of 2000. But this time around, growth will be driven by real revenues. Amazon could see more than half of its revenues come from outside the US by the end of 2005, and definitely by 2006. And it wont just be the virtual companies that embrace Web globalization; well see companies from industries such as hospitality, retail and financial services launch multilingual Web sites another sign that this emerging field has crossed over from luxury to necessity.
Amazon Adds Spanish
The CFO of Amazon said recently that the globalization of Amazon.com is a significant opportunity and promised additional local Web sites. The question is: What new Web sites and when? The company did acquire a Chinese bookseller, Joyo.com, over the summer, but has largely been quiet otherwise. Many people dont know that Amazon already sells around the world shipping goods from its many local stores to more than 200 countries; the more languages Amazon supports, the greater sales it will do. Next year, I expect Amazon to begin supporting Spanish for the US market. They simply cannot afford to ignore the 30+ million native speakers of Spanish; furthermore, the language gives the retailer a platform on which to expand into Latin America. I also will not be surprised to see Amazon enter the Korean market, although I suspect they are predisposed to a local acquisition. Amazon spent enormously to get the Japanese Web site off the ground, and it is treading much more cautiously these days. But Spanish for the US market is one area the company can get off the ground relatively cheaply and see immediate results.
Apple Launches iTunes Korea
Weve been told that Apple will be launching iTunes Japan in March 2005, but Apple has been silent about the rest of Asia. Korea is a natural next step and will be particularly important should Apple release the much-rumored iPhone handset. This all is a run-up to the ultimate launch of iTunes China, which will be led not by the iPod but by the iPhone.
The Global Gateway Finds the Sweet Spot
Six years ago I coined the term global gateway to refer to the pull-down menus that companies were just beginning to use to direct Web users to their specific languages or countries. Over the years, the global gateway has evolved dramatically, although until recently most companies still largely overlooked its importance in driving traffic to localized Web sites. But based on conversations Ive had over the past few months with a wide range of companies, I believe 2005 will see the global gateway become a priority on a larger number of Web sites. The sweet spot for a global gateway is the very top of the Web page, usually to the right side. Were going to see more and more Web sites promote their global gateways to this location; this is a positive development for companies and Web users alike.