Online businesses have three times more international sales than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. Operating online also decreases the time to expand internationally and reduces the need for establishing local offices in each foreign market.

The Global Champions Study was published by TextMaster based on responses from 724 businesses in a survey conducted between September and November 2014. The survey was distributed online on, through partner associations in different countries, as well as the market research firm LightSpeed Research. The respondents included managers, directors, vice-presidents, and entrepreneurs from 15 countries and a variety of industries, including the e-commerce, travel, fashion, and marketing sectors.

The Importance of Internal Multilingualism and Multiculturalism

Multiculturalism was an important factor that contributed to a company's international success, according to the study. Companies with bilingual directors had twice as many sales as businesses with directors who only spoke one language.

Additionally, companies with workforces made up of more than 10 nationalities had five times higher international business, and businesses with multilingual websites had five times more sales abroad.

Top Three Global Industries

The industries that had the most amount of international sales as a portion of their total sales were consumer goods (38%), software/apps (35%) and fashion/luxury/textile (34.8%). Not surprisingly, these industries also conduct a majority of their business online.

The industries that expanded the fastest abroad were travel/tourism (2 years), software/apps (2.3 years), and Web agency/communication/PR (2.5 years).

The industries that conducted business in the highest amount of countries were travel/tourism, software/apps, and consumer goods.

Significant Differences Between Countries

Though three out of four European countries translate their websites and have bilingual directors, more than half of North American companies did not translate or have bilingual directors, according to the study.

Survey respondents indicated that they target primarily neighboring countries or countries on the same continent when expanding abroad.

Key Takeaways

As online commerce becomes more accessible and acceptable around the world, traditional brick-and-mortar businesses need to look at how to take their operations (at least a part of it) online if they want to compete internationally.

Companies that want to effectively address foreign markets also need to make their businesses multilingual to connect with global customers. Doing so presents a big opportunity for US companies that can outrun half of their competitors simply by translating their websites and introducing language learning among their staff.

The Global Champions Study showed that language and online operations were the two factors that were leveling the playing field for companies of all types and sizes.

By conducting a majority of their business online and localizing their Web content, even young, small businesses can become successful international companies.

The full study can be downloaded on

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image of Elizaveta Naumov

Elizaveta Naumov is the marketing manager at TextMaster, where she shares advice on international marketing on the blog Content Is King.

LinkedIn: Elizaveta Naumov

Twitter: @ElizavetaNv