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Spotlight: L.L. BEAN > Q&A WITH L.L. BEAN


Shawn Gorman, Marketing Manager, e-Commerce

Q1: How popular are the translated pages?
A1: With the international FAQ pages, the first few months of their being published saw the greatest traffic. Page views for the FAQs are much lower now, probably due to a more savvy online audience.
Q2: Why did you choose Japan for your first full-scale localization?
A2: After the United States, Japan is the world’s second largest e-commerce market. We chose to launch there first because the Japanese market is our greatest source of overseas demand. LLB International operates nine stores and circulates six million Japanese-language catalogs annually. LLB has developed a very successful multi-channel operating model in the United States, offering Bean products through retail stores, catalogs, and the web. Our objective is to replicate this successful model in Japan.
Q3: Will you set up an overseas office for fulfillment or will you subcontract?
A3: Our existing in-country catalog fulfillment model will support both catalog and web orders.
Q4: How do you manage your Japanese site?
A4: Our site is built on IBM’s WebSphere Commerce Suite. Our Japanese catalog team and the LLB Information Services department contribute extensively to the production of the Japanese site as well as our online catalog in Japanese. Internationalization also allows the team to perform regular maintenance on the site.
Q5: Have you had to deal with any cultural obstacles abroad, say, with your name?
A5: Our name and high brand recognition is an advantage rather than an obstacle. However, avoiding cultural gaffes is a critical factor in gaining local acceptance for any business operating overseas. Such blunders contribute to failure more commonly than companies realize—and the vast majority of these problems are not unique to the web.

In the mail-order catalog business, for example, adding local toll-free numbers, converting to metric measurements, and offering payment and delivery options tailored to local customer preferences are just a few issues to consider. Because the requirements differ for each market, it’s important to work with someone who’s got the experience necessary to steer clear of any serious mistakes or omissions. Catalogs and the web are adapted, not merely translated. Copy cannot be translated literally. It must be carefully adapted, using clear guidelines, to ensure that the proper voice is maintained.

Q6: What advice would you give to executives with tight budgets who want to begin adding localized portions of their site?
A6: The smartest decision executives can make is to begin by building a global platform, thus leveraging their current technology investment and enabling their companies to gain operational efficiencies when entering new markets. By minimizing the impact to back-end systems during the localization process, these companies will achieve smooth, cost-effective solutions, in addition to improving time-to-market and saving themselves a lot of frustration.
Q7: Are there any international web sites that you admire?
A7: Amazon.com is a perfect example of a successful global site. A single global technology platform allows Amazon to launch operations in any market, while giving them the flexibility to quickly adapt their system to the linguistic and cultural requirements of each locale. After launching in Japan, Amazon.co.jp became the top online retailer for books there within just months.



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