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Where Are The Multicultural Sites?

Sometimes I think we get a little too comfortable here in North America. Between us, Canada and the United States boast an online population that exceeds 200 million primarily English speaking online consumers. That can feel like a pretty powerful force. And it is. But it’s not the only one.

All you need to do is look at the numbers – Denmark leads the world in Internet penetration. More than 68% of all Danes are on the Internet. (Stats from ClickZ) And for sheer size, you can’t ignore China and Japan. The second and third largest Internet populations in the world respectively, they have a combined total of 178 million Internet users – all of whom speak a language other than English. They don’t even use the Roman alphabet!
Those numbers got me wondering about our multicultural nation and how ethnic diversity might affect our national online marketing efforts. It’s always confounded me why do so few Canadian companies will even communicate with French Canadians in (gasp!) French.
The easy West Coast answer is that we have so few Francophone residents in British Columbia and that things are different east of Manitoba. [Are they? Let me know.] I don’t buy it. A 2001 Census reported that Vancouver’s Chinese population is almost equal to it’s Canadian population, yet I’m not aware of a single major Vancouver retailer that’s taking steps to offer service in either Mandarin or Cantonese online. So is our real challenge that famous Canadian apathy?
When you break it down by the numbers, it’s impossible to ignore the awesome potential of the multicultural markets sitting, literally, in our own backyard. Yet, somehow, we are.