Globalization is not a new phenomenon. Some argue that Genghis Khan and the Mongols are responsible for international influence and trade. Others believe the World Wars economically drew the globe together. Whether you think expansion started in the 13th century or the 20th, one thing is certain: Digital technology is bringing the world a lot closer together, a whole lot quicker.
Communication, the flow of knowledge and innovation and commerce are all examples of where we’re seeing the impacts of digital globalization. Global shoppers spent nearly $1.5 trillion on consumer goods in 2017. With numbers like these, it’s clear why brands are jumping into the global retail game. And it’s not just the biggies (McDonald’s, Adidas, Walmart) who have stretched their international legs for years. Mid-size and smaller organizations see the advantage and financial opportunity and are taking steps to build a bridge across the seas.
With the race toward worldwide coverage and the demand for increased revenue, we’re seeing all sized retail brands turn to package software for their selling solution because, well, it’s relatively quick to implement, scalable, affordable and easy to integrate with other services. Plus, platforms offer localization: multiple language options, integration with translation services, payment processing variety, international shipping.
But is this enough?
If you’re thinking about expanding your retail footprint globally, it’s OK to start with a platform, but that will only get you so far. It’s the experience around the platform that could mean more than a 10 percent lift in sales. Realize that your international customers have come to expect personalization. These customers are not interested in a “good enough,” modified, templated experience that assumes everyone shops in the same way or is interested in the same content. Unlike Apple’s approach to products, a brand’s digital experience cannot be one-size-fits-all or even one-size-fits-all-with-a-language-selector.
Experience can be addressed in a number of ways, and if going global is a pillar of your retail strategy, consider spending additional time on these three important experience tenants: user flows, content and operations.
Local or global, the goal is the same: Enable your customer. This means you have to understand your customers’ motivations, behaviors and constraints in order to cater to the differences in your experience and remove any obstacles of enablement. Consider that Chinese shoppers like to learn more before a purchase and prefer to browse content rather than a Western search-and-find-as-soon-as-possible preference. Or that Indian shoppers often favor cash on delivery and don’t require payment processing as part of their experience. Or that Europeans like to buy online, but pick up in store as they still enjoy spending time in the physical store.
Understanding the differences will require some homework and research of cultural tastes, blended with user data to speak to the fancy of each one of your unique customers.
Many brands opt for a cost and time efficient language translating service, taking content from the English site and translating it for global use. You could do this—but, really? Language is extremely nuanced. Not all cultures use sarcasm, irony, figurative language or double meanings. And you’ll especially know this if you have a teenager: Language is changing rapidly at the influence of trends that don’t necessarily translate. Imagine the translation of a shoe store talking about their kicks or any store advertising items as straight fire. Just a few examples to demonstrate just how poorly that could go.
Until AI is able to better understand and translate nuance, it’s imperative that a human has final editing rights. Word for word translations just won’t cut it.
The relationship with your customer shouldn’t end with a confirmation message or even a shipping notice. Brands need to understand that the customer experience will continue as long as there is an experience. And the experience is not the same globally. I love my Amazon Prime and its one- or two-day shipping. In that short window of time (between click to order and a package delivery notification), there’s not a lot of additional engagement necessary. Customers in Ghana, however, wait 12–22 business days for their expedited (not standard) shipping to be delivered. A lot of conversation, engagement and, potentially, additional transactions can happen in the month they wait for the initial delivery.
One size does not fit all, and if we expect success, it’s important to invest in more than a technical platform. Understand your customers, understand their culture and create an experience that enables everyone uniquely.