Succeeding in the Translation Economy

Here is an article I wrote that was recently published in tcworld magazine.

In it, I define the “translation economy” and the opportunities (and challenges) it presents to all organizations.

From the information economy to the translation economy
The internet connected the world’s computers, and the digitization of content enabled the rapid flow of information around the world, which drove several decades of what came to be known as the information economy. But one of the great myths of the information economy – and the World Wide Web, for that matter – was the idea that a company could go global simply by launching a website. While the Internet connects computers, it is language that connects people, and the information economy has for too many years exhibited an English-language bias.

Read more…

And for much more on the translation economy, check out Think Outside the Country.

Also now available in Japanese!



Day One for Amazon in Australia

Today marks the official day one for Amazon in Australia.

While has been around for a number of years largely selling eBooks via the Kindle, today the company goes all-in, selling products across more than 20 categories, with Prime coming next year.

It’s interesting to be here and talking to the locals about what this all means.  Book publishers and retailers are acutely aware of Amazon, but what do consumers expect? One local newscast noted the initial consumer response has been underwhelming, with locals expecting far better deals than they were seeing.

But success in retail often requires a long game, and Amazon has proven that it is quite content to bleed money in the “short” run for profits later. I think Prime will be the key competitive differentiator for Amazon in Australia that it has been for Amazon in the US. No other retailers here offer anything similar (yet).

On a side note, I was amazed a few weeks ago to see how big Black Friday has become in Australia, demonstrating how local retail holidays can over time become global retail holidays. See the example below from New Zealand-based retailer Kathmandu.

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 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 site.

Both 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.

Are you celebrating India’s festival season? Amazon sure is

Amazon Great Indian Festival

Flipkart has long been the dominant ecommerce retailer in India, but Amazon is no longer content to remain in second place.

Amazon launched its Great Indian Festival promotion this week with free prizes including a number of cars, even a free home.

Just a day in, Amazon claims record sales and one billion hits, which doesn’t really mean anything, but sounds impressive.

Retailers have awakened to the importance of local holidays around the world. Just as retailers outside of China have discovered China’s immensely popular Singles Day, they can’t ignore fall festival season in India.

And this holiday isn’t just about retailers, but any global company. Like Chevrolet, which is offering a free gold coin for purchases during festival season:

Chevrolet India




Most global websites now use country codes

As part of the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card I note the use of country codes among the world’s leading brands.

It’s an imperfect process because different companies use country codes in different ways. For example, some websites use country codes as redirects back to the .com domain (not ideal, but better than nothing). Others use the country codes as standalone domains (ideal).

And a handful of others, suchas Amazon and Expedia, have made country codes an extension of their brand:

Expedia Japan Logo country code

Amazon Germany country code


More than 80% of the companies studied in Web Globalization Report Card use country codes for at least some of the markets they support. This is a significant increase from five years ago, when many companies were still relying on .com as the base domain for all local websites.

What’s changed since then? For starters, Google has done a good job of incentivizing websites to support country codes. But more important, users around the world actually prefer country codes. These domains function as shortcuts to the local websites, bypassing the global .com site altogether.

The following companies do a very good job of supporting country codes:

  • Adidas
  • Autodesk
  • Coca-Cola
  • Dell
  • DHL
  • Dyson
  • Google
  • Hilton
  • Honda
  • IKEA
  • Intel
  • John Deere
  • Mercedes
  • Merck
  • Nikon
  • Philips
  • Starbucks

Want to learn more about country codes? Check out this handy map.

Also, to better understand how country codes should fit into your overall global navigation strategy, check out Geolocation for Global Success.

Included as part of the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card

The top 25 global websites of 2016

Web Globalization Report Card 2016


UPDATE: The 2017 Web Globalization Report Card is now available.

I’m pleased to announce the publication of the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card and, with it, the top 25 websites:

  1. Google
  2. Facebook
  3. Wikipedia
  5. NIVEA
  7. Nestlé
  8. Pampers
  9. Adobe
  10. Intel
  11. Twitter
  12. Microsoft
  13. American Express
  14. BMW
  15. 3M
  16. Hitachi
  17. Starbucks
  18. Nike
  19. Samsung
  20. Cisco Systems
  21. Nikon
  22. TNT
  23. Philips
  24. Autodesk
  25. ABB

It’s hard to believe that this is the twelfth edition of the Report Card. Over the past decade I’ve seen the average number of languages supported by global brands increase from just 10 languages to 30 languages today.

And, of course, the top 25 websites go well beyond 30 language. Google supports  90 languages via Google Translate and 75 languages on YouTube. And Facebook stands at 88 languages.

But it’s not just languages that make a website succeed globally. Companies need to support fast-loading mobile websites, locally relevant content, and user-friendly navigation.

Notable highlights among the top 25:

  • Wikipedia is far and away the language leader, with content in more than 270 languages. The company also now supports a mobile-friendly layout that is considerably lighter (in kilobytes) than most Fortune 100 mobile websites.
  • NIVEA provides an excellent example of a company that localizes its models for local websites — one of the few companies to do so.
  • Nike made this top 25 list for the first time, having added languages and improved global consistency and navigation.
  • As a group, the top 25 websites support an average of 52 languages.

For 2016, we studied 150 websites across 15 industry categories — and more than 80% of the Interbrand Best Global Brands. Websites were graded according to languages supported, global navigation, global and mobile website architecture, and localization.

Congratulations to the top 25 websites!