The norms of conducting business also vary from one country to the next. Here are several examples of foreign business behavior that differ from US business behavior:
- In France, wholesalers do not like to promote products. They are mainly interested in supplying retailers with the products they need.
- In Russia, plans of any kind must be approved by a seemingly endless string of committees. As a result, business negotiations may take years.
- South Americans like to talk business "nose to nose." This desire for close physical proximity causes American business people to back away from the constantly forward-moving South Americans.
- In Japan, businesspeople have mastered the tactic of silence in negotiations. Americans are not prepared for this, and they panic because they think something has gone wrong. The result is that Americans become impatient, push for a closure, and often make business concessions they later regret.
These norms are reflected in the difficulty of introducing the Web into Europe (see the next "Integrated marketing").
Hooking up in Europe
Everyone in Europe vacations in August, and business is booming at Internet Train, the perhaps inappropriately named chain of Internet cafes in Florence, Italy. Just over the Ponte Vechio, the old bridge joining the Uffizi art gallery with Pallazo Pitti, there is a small storefront with 20 personal computers. Inside, people from around the world peck away at their email, communicating with friends and acquaintances from more than a hundred countries—for just ITL 6,000 (about USD 3) per half hour.
Thousands of kilometers away in London, near Victoria Station, the scene is much the same. Stelio's Haij-Joannu, a Greek shipping tycoon and Internet entrepreneur, has created Easy Everything, which he claims are the world's largest Internet cafes. Haij-Joannu boasts nine Internet cafes with 3,900 PCs ready and available. "Easy Everything (easyeverything.com) is wonderful," reports Reade Fahs, CEO of London based First Tuesday, a global Internet networking organization. "You call it an Internet cafe, but it's much more. Most Internet cafes are about the coffee with computers on the side. This is about 400 thin-screen computers in this very cool environment with a little coffee on the side."
Of course, the story in Europe goes far beyond email and Internet cafes. They are just the top of the innovation revolution sweeping Europe from the North to the South. Consider easyGroup, which owns easyEverything: easyGroup includes easyJet.com and easyRentacar.com (all properties controlled by Haij-Joannu). EasyJet.com bills itself as the "Web's favorite airline" and markets itself as it discount airline with steep incentives for buyers to transact online. EasyRentacar.com is "the world's first Internet-only rent-a-car company," he adds. He also plans to start easyMoney.com, offering discount mortgages online.
Still, the challenges of European Internet marketing are legion. Putting a B2C (business-to-consumer) or a B2B (business-to-business) site up in Europe is much more difficult than in the United States. Among the many complexities facing pan-European websites are the following:
- developing a site for multiple languages
- developing a site for multiple currencies
- providing multilingual customer service
- shipping across borders in Europe
- handling the value-added tax (VAT)
- coping with strict government regulatory issues
- recruiting and retaining people in markets that prohibit or curtail stock options and other economic incentives 1