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It’s time for your website to go flag free

If you are flying the Taiwan flag on your website, consider yourself warned.

By China.

As I’ve written many times over the past year, China is paying close attention to how multinationals refer to Taiwan on their websites, not just textually but visually. And this includes the global gateway.

But the fact is, flags are completely unnecessary in global gateways — not just the Taiwan flag but any flag. And now is a very good time to extricate flags from your website.

Flag free means frustration free.

I’ve published a new report that details the many reasons for removing flags from your website; it also includes examples of websites that have gone flag free, including Costco, Google, Sanofi and Siemens.

This report is included free with all purchases of the 2018 Web Globalization Report Card.

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The world’s biggest shopping day is November 11th

China’s Alibaba is the creator (and exporter) of this one-day ecommerce extravaganza that takes place on 11/11.

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And despite being a one-day event the pre-promotion is in full effect.

According to brandchannel, Alibaba is intent to set new records this year by expanding beyond China’s border. Its long-term goal is two billion shoppers, so they have no choice but to look outside mainland China. This year they’ve recruited Katy Perry as their spokesperson.

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Amazon recently launched Prime in China. But Amazon is just a blip compared to Alibaba.

Costco has been a partner for several years and apparently did 3.5 million in sales two years ago. Here is their Tmall home page. Costco does not even have a localized website for China — just a Tmall site, which is effectively the same thing when it comes to China. The benefit of a Tmall site is that you’re hosted within the country, bypassing the great firewall. And you get built-in marketing and support from Alibaba.

Now, will Singles Day take off in the US?

When it comes to ecommerce, I’d say anything is possible. We Americans love any opportunity to shop. And perhaps with the growing backlash against Black Friday, this will one day become the next big shopping day.

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The worst global websites of the 2014 Web Globalization Report Card

report card

You can be a wildly successful global company and still have a poorly localized website.

A number of factors determine global success and the website is only one of these factors — unless of course you’re an Internet-based company (you’ll note below that none of these companies are “web only”).

I also want to stress that the websites listed below are the lowest-scoring websites in the 2014 Web Globalization Report Card — and not necessarily the worst global websites, period. The Report Card analyzes a carefully curated group of websites, across more than a dozen industry sectors, with the primary intention of noting emerging and established best practices. Some industry sectors simply do a better job at web globalization than other sectors, such as retail, consumer products, and financial services.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten the caveats out of the way, here are the 20 websites that finished at the bottom of the 2014 Report Card:

  • Axa
  • Hilton
  • Toys R Us
  • Sony
  • Citibank
  • Best Buy
  • Visa
  • Hyundai
  • GameStop
  • Costco
  • Dolby
  • Loréal
  • Enterprise
  • Dollar
  • Rent A Car
  • Jack Daniels
  • Kleenex
  • Gap
  • Heineken
  • Four Seasons
  • MTV
  • Ramada
  • Thrifty
  • Walmart
  • Budweiser

Budweiser finished in last place, preceded by Walmart and so on.

A handful of companies have become regulars on this list over the past few years, companies like Walmart, Heineken, Loréal, Sony and Four Seasons.

But there is no “one” reason why these websites finished at the bottom of the list. To paraphrase Tolstoy: All successful global websites are alike; each unsuccessful global website is unsuccessful in its own way. 

It would be easy to blame limited language support and, yes, many of these websites fall well short of the average of 28 languages set by the leading global websites, particularly the websites of Costco and Walmart. But I should note that 10 of the websites on this list support 20 or more languages and Sony and Hyundai support 40 or more languages.

Lack of global consistency is an issue with many websites. That is, each country web team appears to have gone off on its own and created a website from scratch instead of working across company to share common design templates and resources.

Global gateways are often wildly erratic — or missing altogether. A number of these websites offer no visual clues on their .com home pages to help users find localized websites.

One important note: Taking retail global is incredibly difficult. Companies like Costco, Best Buy, Gamestop, and Walmart face steep odds when trying to expand into new markets — for them, the website may be the easiest aspect of going global. Walmart, for example, has struggled greatly in countries like Japan and Germany — and not because of web localization. The type of industry you are in weighs heavily in the challenges you face as you go global.

Having said all this, there is some good news. A few of these companies could vastly improve their websites with relatively minor fixes; that is, they have the localized content but they’re just not presenting it in a scalable or user-friendly manner.  I also know a few of these companies are in the process of rolling out new and improved global websites right now and they won’t be on this list much longer.