Amazon’s uneven (and not unusual) language strategy

Amazon Crossing is the Amazon publishing imprint dedicated to translating non-English books into English. In just a few years it has grown to be a leading translator of literary novels.

I noted earlier that Amazon.in doesn’t significantly support Indian languages. But on the Amazon Crossing submission page, you will find support for Hindi, Bengali and Punjabi. The global gateway is shown below on the right:

The gateway is (sadly) missing a globe icon — though I suspect the Amazon Crossing logo is partly to blame (one globe too many perhaps).

Other languages supported include Arabic, Portuguese and Russian. What’s interesting here is that the language mix is noticeably different on the Amazon.com site.

Both Amazon.com and Amazon Crossing support 13 languages in addition to English as noted in the 2017 Report Card, which means Amazon still has a long ways to go before it competes with the leaders in languages. Here is the average number of languages supported by the leading global brands over the past seven years.

But what I wanted to call attention to is Amazon’s uneven support for languages across its different products and services — a phenomenon that is not unique to Amazon. Many multinationals I work with support different language mixes for different properties. The rationale is sound: Different products and services have different audiences, marketing strategies, global and regional partners, and local opportunities.

But how do you balance an uneven language strategy with a consistent global content architecture? For example, let’s say you have one product page localized into Russian and a visitor to that product page goes to the global nav menu and selects another product, naturally assuming this other product also is also localized into Russian, only to discover it is not.

This problem is only going to grow more acute as more companies decentralize their global product content and marketing strategies.

Of course, every challenge is also an opportunity. Where companies can differentiate themselves is in how effectively they manage user expectations, manage language expectations, and how they leverage machine translation to fill language gaps.

To learn more about which companies are doing the best job at managing language expectations, check out the Web Globalization Report Card.

The growing language gap between travel and tourism websites

The travel industry has long been at the forefront of web globalization. Take Booking.com, with support for 41 languages, or Uber, with support for 36 languages, or KLM, with support for 32 languages.
And yet, if you wish to research destinations online, tourism websites are not nearly so globally friendly. While the leading travel websites support an average of 30 languages, the top 10 tourism websites support an average of just 12 languages.
Germany, the destination website that emerged number one overall, leads the category with support for 24 languages. But most other destination websites support far fewer, even many of the sites in the top ten list.

The Top 10 Global Tourism Websites

  1. Germany
  2. France
  3. Spain
  4. Paris
  5. Scotland
  6. Sydney
  7. Dubai
  8. Holland
  9. Singapore
  10. Western Australia

Language is the most evident sign of a localized website, but it is just one area in which tourism websites need improvement. The  new report Destination: Marketing carefully documents the many different types of navigation strategies used by tourism websites and provides best practices that all websites should adopt. It also takes a close look at localized content, social media, and support for mobile users (also a weak point).

I understand that the organizations that manage destination websites are not exactly flush with cash these days. Brand USA is fighting for its budget as I write this. Yet this is precisely the time to make the case for the value of multilingual destination websites.
Consider this: The travel and tourism industry is growing at a faster pace than the global economy and by 2017 is projected to account for 1 of 9 jobs on this planet. Tourism websites play an essential role in attracting travelers and more than half of these travelers do not speak English. The countries, regions and cities that do invest in a multilingual future are going to be best positioned to benefit from it.
To learn more about the report, click here.

Announcing the top 10 global tourism websites

While I’ve closely studied travel websites for many years (such as airlines, hotels, travel agencies) as part of The Web Globalization Report Card, I’ve not spent much time looking closely at destination websites, such as for cities, regions and countries.  That is, until earlier this year.
For this report we benchmarked 55 country, region, and city tourism websites across six continents. Of those websites, here are the top 10 overall: 
Germany emerged on top driven in large part by its support for a leading 24 languages as well as global consistency and local content.
 
The leading city website is Paris, with support for 11 languages, which may not sound like many languages, but is actually well above the average for city websites.
Which leads me to the key finding of this report: the growing language gap between travel and tourism websites, which I will write about in a later post.
Western Australia came out on top of the regional websites. Shown here, note the globe icon in the header used to highlight the global gateway — a very nice touch.
Tourism websites should lead the travel industry
Language is just one of the areas in which tourism websites need improvement. This report carefully documents the many different types of navigation strategies used by tourism websites and provides best practices that all sites should consider. It also takes a close look at localized content, social media, and support for mobile users (also a weak point).
It’s my hope that this report helps tourism organizations make a stronger case for globalization. After all, the travel and tourism industry is growing at a faster pace than the global economy and by 2017 is projected  by the World Travel and Tourism Council to account for 1 of 9 jobs on this planet. Tourism websites play a key role in attracting travelers and more than half of these travelers do not speak English.
To learn more about the report, click here.