“Think globally, act locally” is considered critical to winning consumer trust in Ecommerce. However, there is a paucity of research aimed at understanding the linguistic adaptation required for Ecommerce. Researchers claim that Arabs have an affinity for high context but low content. Our pilot study of 50 prominent Ecommerce websites of businesses based in Arab countries has revealed that the majority of sites which offer an Arabic version are literal translations that fail to capture the real meaning or richness of the Arabic language. Further, the sites studied do not significantly reflect characteristics pertaining to a higher context culture and the site designs do not demonstrate conformance to Arab cultural dimensions identified in Hofstede's model. In this extended research, we present the methodology and results from a study of 500 Arabic E-Commerce sites spanning 22 Arab countries. Our initial focus was an investigation of the use of visual metaphors and their cultural undertones. In addition to the further validation of the results of the pilot study supporting non-conformance to Hofstede's model of cultural adaptation, our study determined very low adaptation of visual metaphors that were designed to reflect the Arab culture. Since language and culture are closely related, studying metaphor usage in particular and figurative language in general, received our attention in the second part of our study. We are currently developing an Arabic language e-commerce corpus by crawling a seed repository of web sites from 22 Arabic countries; this corpus includes a set of seven domains (business types). We believe the resulting corpus will serve as a valuable resource in order to accomplish different studies in computational linguistics and language engineering experiments. Our preliminary study of the acquired data shows that figurative language use, although sparse in general, is more common in tourism domain than e-banking domain. On the other hand, we observe that selecting web sites from different Arab countries facilitates the understanding of the use of Arabic dialects in different countries. Based on our preliminary analysis of data, we find the pervasive use of Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), although some sparse use of dialectal features can be observed in the data-set. Our long term goal is to conduct eye-tracking studies and based on the insights gained from the prior studies, develop and communicate best practices for design firms and Arabic language translators, besides creating a repository of design and content patterns for Arabic Ecommerce websites. The ultimate objective of the research is to reduce the perceived digital gap in the Arab world and help achieve Qatar's vision of creating a knowledge-based economy and promote Arabic language in e-commerce.

This work was made possible by NPRP grant 5-1393-6-044 from the Qatar National Research Fund (A member of the Qatar Foundation).The statements made herein are solely the responsibility of the authors.


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