The web from a non USA point of view.
Marketing Tips
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It is often interesting and at the same time disappointing to visit a large number of web sites based in the USA. Why? It is interesting because these sites are advertising or offering free promotional material. Disappointing because, after filling out a lengthy application / survey / questionnaire etc, you find that the offer only applies to people from USA and / or possibly Canada. This equally applies to commercial services selling products over the Internet. I applied for a free mouse pad the other day to find it was going to cost US$36.00 to post! It was certainly a waste of my time and effort. I'm sure you all can get a mouse pad for less than a few dollars if you shop around.

Here are some tips that might help put the "World" back into the World Wide Web if you are indeed trying to attract the World or part of it outside the USA to your web site. Some other views can also be found at the KryssTal Web Site -- - more links are at the bottom of this article.

  1. Access Speed. Please, if you want people from overseas to visit your web site time and time again then make sure your site works at slower speeds. International Web connections can be extremely slow and the latest greatest Web technology will simply make a large number of your overseas visitors go somewhere else especially if they are paying by the minute or hour for access. Yes, that's right people do pay by the minute in some countries for web access.

  2. Language. Not everyone speaks English. - English is not the largest spoken language in the world and not everyone that speaks English speaks it as well as you do. Some people are using English as a third or fourth language or even worse. If you are targeting a non-USA/Canada audience then put some thought into your words. Is a multilingual site worth your time and effort? How many Canadians are there who speak French as their first language for example? For the rest of this article I will ignore non-English speaking customers (sorry).

  3. Comprehension. Not everyone, who speaks English, understands it at the same level as you do. For example, a spade might be a gardening or digging implement to someone and to you it might be a glorified shovel but to me it might mean something totally different. Be careful with words that might have other meanings in the target country. Choose your words carefully. Spelling shouldn't be a problem but there are minor differences for example sidewalk / footpath. colour / colour. Talking about colours - I use grey do you use gray? Cheque / Check, Centre / Center, Night / Nite, Harbour / Harbor, Neighbour / Neighbor, Travelling / Traveling, Theatre / Theater and the list goes on and on.

    Here are some other examples of words used to describe the same thing but as the languages change the difference becomes harder to differentiate.

  4. Possibly USA?
    Possibly other English countries?
    scones (certainly not biscuits)
    cotton candy
    fairy floss
    breakfast sausages
    nail varnish
    nail polish
    fly over
    parking lot
    car park

  5. Of course you wouldn't want to ask someone for a "rubber" in USA if all you were after was an eraser. And to me a "thong" is something to be worn on your foot but of course a thong in USA is something totally different -- please check out the meaning at Many words end in "ise" or if in USA "ize" such as recognise and recognize; maginalise and marginilize; mobilise and mobilize etc.

    Visit -- -- for more thoughts on this issue.

  6. Delivery. What is the best method for delivery of your product overseas? For example: - I order Christmas cakes from USA every year in September for delivery before Christmas. Every year for the past fifteen or more years those Christmas cakes have arrived in Australia and elsewhere well before Christmas except the ones intended for Papua New Guinea (PNG) which turn up in March or April the next year! I've even taken to ordering the cake intended for PNG before the rest. I've come to the conclusion that there must be only one ship to PNG every year from USA. By the way, the cakes come in a protective tin and every year that tin is damaged by the time I get it in PNG but the cake is in perfect condition. Also -- is your product packed adequately for the country it is going to? Did you know that there is no street delivery of mail in PNG so asking for a street address could be a problem? I don't even know the name of the street I live in nor do I know the name of the road where I work. It is simply not important here in PNG.

  7. Target Audience. Ask yourself - "what country am I targeting?" The names of countries seem to change on an almost daily basis. If you have a list of countries please have an option somewhere on the form for a person to add a comment especially if their country isn't listed. Do you want to miss that sale because you haven't kept up with world events? Just as an aside to this - how many people reading this know where Papua New Guinea is located on a world map? What is the correct spelling of the country in English or in French for example?

  8. Data Format. Formatting of dates e.g 12/10/1998 or 10/12/1998 or 10th December 1998 is an area you should pay attention to. See, it is not just Y2K that you might have problems with! Another thing to try and design into any web site form is an acceptable format for a telephone number or even a zip code / postcode. For example the postcode in the UK might look something like this AB11 7WL how does that fit in with your form? The telephone numbers here in PNG are relatively short. They are in the format of NNN-NNNN whereas most of Australia has switched to the following format NNNN-NNNN for local numbers. Adding provision for STD or ISD is required as well. PNG doesn't have any STD codes but most countries do have some form of number to indicate that the call is outside the normal call area / zone. Please make sure that on your web pages you add a contactable telephone number. An 800 "free" number might not be able to be dialed from overseas countries. It might be worthwhile to add your facsimile number and definitely an email address as well if you are really interested in helping your customers get in touch with you.

  9. Monetary Unit. If you are advertising prices please make sure that you do mention what currency they are in. Most likely it will be US Dollars but just to avoid confusion please specify somewhere on your page/s. Have you geared up for the Euro if you deal with European countries? See below regarding monetary controls.

  10. Customer Location. Obviously just because someone has an email address or URL which looks like one from the United States don't assume that it is unless you have a snail mail address to back it up. I know you can work from home on the other side of the world but you'll find the person receiving the cheque / check will have trouble cashing a domestic cheque / check in their country. This applies to any refund cheque you might send out as well.

  11. Exchange controls/censorship. Some countries have tight foreign exchange controls in place. There might also be prohibitively high import duties / taxes charged on anything brought into the country. Some items are banned altogether. Did you know, for instance, that there is a fine for importing chewing gum into Singapore? You wouldn't want your payment delayed or possibly canceled due to restrictions would you? I'm sure the buyer would be equally disappointed if his/her item was confiscated by customs / quarantine or the censor etc.

  12. Research the country you are trying to target. There are just so many things that could be mentioned but I will only highlight a few examples to get you thinking. For example is it a non-Christian country? Need I say how difficult it would be if you were trying to sell a Christian Christmas product to a non-Christian country? Are you trying to target the father's day or mother's day market in Australia for example? If you are, do you know if they are on the same day as they are in USA or other countries?

  13. There are other things that will need your attention if you are trying to capture that elusive overseas buyer. Be aware that your readers may be in any one of nearly 200 countries that have access to the World Wide Web. Of course, you should not try to sell inappropriate products. For example: pork to Muslim or Jewish countries; leather goods to India or Nepal; Nazi memorabilia to France, Poland or Israel. Some of them that spring to mind are simple things like the size of shoes and clothes.

    1. A size 8 shoe in the UK might not be the same as a size 8 in USA and I'm sure an 8 in Italy is a totally different thing again.

    2. With clothing you need to be careful for example - is that Asian "small" size the same as a "small" size in USA or New Zealand?

    3. Don't forget that not everyone uses inches, feet, Fahrenheit, gallons etc. Of the 210 or so countries in the world, over 200 use the metric system. And even if you are talking the same thing is it really the same? For instance a US gallon is less than an imperial gallon but both are still called a gallon. It seems that the rest of the world now uses litres instead of gallons but even in USA they have to spell litre as liter!
      1 US gallon (liquid) = 3.785 411 784 litres
      1 UK gallon (liquid) = 4.546 09 litres

      Thanks to Wikipedia -- talking about metric I hope you don't have to deal in tons. in the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, the spelling tonne refers to the metric unit (1000 kilograms), whereas in the US the same unit is referred to as a metric ton. The unqualified ton usually refers to the long ton (2,240 lb.) in the UK and to the short ton (2,000 pounds (910 kg)) in the US (but note that the tonne and long ton differ by only 1.6%, and are roughly interchangeable when accuracy is not critical; ton and tonne are usually pronounced the same in speech).

    4. Letter size paper, commonly used in USA, is useless to me as I use A4 paper in my laser printer.
      A4 = 210mm × 297mm or 8.27 inches × 11.69 inches.
      Letter = 216mm 279mm or 8.5inches 11 inches

    5. Along with the confusion over sizes the seasons can be a problem. Not only does "fall" mean something different to us over here we don't even have fall (autumn) at the same time as you. i.e. it's no good selling / advertising your winter woollies to someone in the middle of an Australian outback summer. Although with some of the "extended" delivery times it might not be such a bad idea ordering winter clothes in the middle of summer.

  14. Something to watch out for is the time and date difference between you and your target audience or audiences. For example, if I was to read the stars, I would be extremely upset with some of the providers of astrology information because due to the fact that where I am it is 10 hours ahead of GMT and USA is behind GMT our new day starts well before your day ends. What does this mean? Well someone here looking for timely astrology information always gets the information for yesterday. I think most people try to read their stars before, not after, the event.

  15. If you're selling electrical products i.e. PC's then are they the correct voltage and frequency for your targeted market? 110V 60 Hertz is not necessarily a world wide standard. Not all mobile telephones are based on the ones used in USA. Is that mobile phone unlocked to work on the end users carrier?

  16. I have seen large monitors stamped with "Suitable for Southern Hemisphere use only". Is this a factor you should be concerned about? Also the standards for monitors etc are more stringent in some countries due to occupational health and safety issues.

Don't have preconceived ideas. We all know that kangaroo's hop down the main street of Sydney, that everyone has a gun in Los Angeles and that nobody speaks English in France but maybe those things aren't 100% correct. Likewise it is no good trying to sell me on baseball and gridiron because to me they are just as foreign as someone trying to speak in Russian to me.

Good luck with your "International Web Site"

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Created 30 Jul, 1998
Updated 29 Sep, 2014

© 1998 - Trevor Michie