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Major Mover: Cyberservices' Multicultural Success Story

Major Mover: Cyberservices' Multicultural Success Story

Cyberservices is a powerhouse affiliate program in the European market. In large part, the success of Cyberservices can be attributed to its adept use of a multicultural user interface. Instead of promoting itself to only English-speaking consumers, Cyberservices has diversified its products by using a customer's IP address to identify which language to greet them in.

"Our site is in 25 different languages and we try to meet the preferences of the different servers who come from different cultural backgrounds," says Benjamin Bayr, manager of the international traffic unit of Cyberservices' SEXMoney.com. "The American affiliate programs and sponsors, which are all in English, is pretty much saturated. I think that it's a major problem, while here in Europe, the adult market is just booming."

Bayr also feels that American Websites can generate more revenue from international customers by forming trans-national partnerships with European affiliates. "Nobody else knows the marketplace better than providers of pay sites that are coming from the specific countries," he says.

"We at SEXMoney.com are offering various different payment methods and the customer can choose the one he feels most comfortable with. On the other side, Cyberservices attempts to welcome the surfer in his native language, so that terms and conditions are understood from the very beginning of the business relationship," Bayr says, adding that the average surfer maintains their Cyberservices membership for nearly six months.

Bayr and his close friends Guido, Richard, and Michael founded Cytainment (www.cytainment.de), the precursor of Cyberservices, in Germany in 1996. Though all of the parties were running successful companies, they saw an even greater opportunity by combining the world's oldest trade - sex ? with the technologies of the future; namely, the Internet. The outgrowth of this would later come to be known as the Cyberservices conglomerate, encompassing an advertising agency, telephone call center, real estate office, and a software house.

"My friends at SEXMoney.com asked me if, down the road, I would be interested in joining the team. However, at that point, I was still too much involved in the time consuming project work of SAP-projects," Bayr says.

After seeing what could be accomplished within the European adult Internet market, Bayr felt he had no other choice but to join the Cyberservices team. "I think if I had problems getting motivated, I'd be in the wrong business anyway," says Bayr, a marketing major who received his Master's degree in business administration from a private Christian college near Santa Barbara, Calif.

In 1999, Bayr says, Cyberservices became the largest affiliate program within the German-speaking countries (Germany, Austria, and Switzerland) and today includes regional branches throughout Europe, with an estimated 25,000-30,000 customers.

The technological framework of Cyberservices includes 18 Intel and AMD servers, most with dual 2.3 GHz processors and at least an 800 GB RAID. A Linux operating system handles the majority of its program, mostly in C , while PHP by Zend-Technologie and Perl oversee a relational SQL-Database.

Nobody likes chargebacks, and they certainly don't become any more palatable when they straddle international borders and currencies. "Most chargebacks - besides fraud - are due to cultural barriers like language or payment methods that are causing higher expenses than expected," Bayr says. "We hate it, the banks hate it, and everybody knows that it's bad for business."

Bayr says there may be something of value to be learned from some chargebacks: Discounting obvious cases of fraud, chargebacks can reveal something about customers' dislikes. "We see that happening with dial-up customers. We have to find out why people are charging their money back. Perhaps the payment method that was offered to them resulted consequently in higher expenses [than] they originally thought of," Bayr speculates.

Many European consumers are leery of having their adult Web transactions converted from their native currency into Eurodollars because of the propensity for fraud and rampant price inflation that has taken place over the years.

Evidence of this distrust occurs when it comes to sign-up terms and conditions; Bayr has observed that customers become very hesitant if the servers can't speak to them in their native language. "About 90 percent of the online business is done through Eurodollars, and I think the dollars have a very bad reputation because people received phone bills in the thousands of dollars. In Germany, we have one of the most expensive phone systems in the world, so a call could cost a dailer nearly two Eurodollars per minute," Bayr says.

Thusly, Bayr and his colleagues run their company with these guiding principles: 1) Identify and filter your international traffic by use of IP-detection to select the browser language of the surfer; 2) route the surfer to the requested niche and welcome them in their native language; 3) offer different methods of payment that are most convenient to the customer; 4) consider the differences of cultural preferences while designing the layouts and the content of sites; 5) Be aware of jurisdictional restrictions and use local AVSes, and; 6) seek partnerships with international affiliate programs.

"In regard to Web business, it's time to think globally," Bayr says."The language of the Web is changing."

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