The expansion of the Internet has in fact not made the world flat for global e-retailing giants, as author Thomas Friedman claims in his recent book, The World Is Flat. In fact, the international e-retail marketing landscape is proving quite bumpy, according to the results of a recent Forrester Research Inc. survey on managing brands over multiple countries. The results indicate that providing consistent customer service outside of a company's home country is a growing challenge for online retailers, according to Forrester. As major international companies expand online channels to more and more countries, they are encountering cultural differences and fragmented marketing processes that ultimately lead to "a disjointed brand experience," according to the report. The survey of 161 marketing executives in the U.S. and Europe from a variety of companies, including providers of consumer goods, travel services and high-technology wares, was conducted in April. The study was commissioned by SDL International, a Maidenhead, England-based IT consultancy. The survey found that less than one quarter of U.S. companies use multiple languages to provide a consistent online experience worldwide. The problem will grow worse, Forrester predicted, as more and more companies expand outside their home countries and fail to take language into account. "Companies transitioning to a global model -- especially companies based in the U.S. -- aren't confident that their brands' values are consistently represented across all the languages that they support," said Forrester in a statement. "It is necessary, then, for marketers to adopt consistent technologies and processes across regions and to develop core skills for brand consistency and content management when they expand to new local markets." The study also suggested that companies host Web sites from one central location rather than in data centers located in multiple countries. Consolidation saves money and resources and makes integration and management easier, Forrester said.
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