Multilingual Web sites are no longer an exotic luxury, but instead are a critical imperative in a rapidly shifting e-commerce world, according to a new report from Internet research firm Forrester Research (Nasdaq: FORR).
The report, entitled “The Multilingual Site Blueprint,” said that 63 of the Fortune 100 Web sites are currently available in English only and warned that U.S. companies will be left at the station as the international e-commerce train departs if they fail to recognize the global nature of the new economy.
“Since 50 percent of all online sales will be sold outside the United States by 2004, building a multilingual site has become critical — particularly to those companies serious about winning in the Internet economy,” said Forrester Research analyst Eric Schmitt.
Moving Away From Translators
Forrester predicted that by 2003, a set of Web-based globalization software and services would emerge and diminish the reliance on traditional translation services offered by local companies.
E-commerce integrators will also increase their globalization efforts, the firm said. The firm interviewed 27 U.S.-based multilingual site owners in compiling the report.
Backed By Numbers
Forrester’s report is supported by a slew of hard statistical data on the rise of Internet commerce outside the United States. Some 60 percent of the world’s Web users now reside outside the U.S., with Western Europe and Asia chalking up sharp increases in the past year.
These two regions are expected to deliver the most traffic and revenue to the Internet industry over the next few years. Research firm IDC predicts that e-commerce revenue in Western Europe will grow from $5.8 billion (US$) in 1998 to $430 billion in 2003. Internet-based spending in the Asia-Pacific region is expected to increase from $2.7 billion in 1998 to $72 billion by 2003.
There are a number of companies addressing the multilingual gap and working to develop products that can overcome significant technological hurdles.
For example, the Waltham, Massachusetts-based Lionbridge Technologies (Nasdaq: LIOX), paid approximately $190 million in stock earlier this year to purchase rival Int’l.com.
Lionbridge’s company slogan is “because the ‘e’ does not stand for English.” With the Int’l.com acquisition, the company claims to be the world’s largest provider of services of multilingual Web software and databases. Lionbridge booked first quarter revenues of $17 million and has facilities in Canada, Ireland, the Netherlands, France, Brazil, China and South Korea.