Earlier this month I went to see Avengers: Endgame at an IMAX theatre outside Buenos Aires. We’d had trouble getting tickets soon after it was released because they were sold out, so we were thrilled to finally get to see it. The theatre was packed, with the majority of the attendees following along to all the dialogue with Spanish subtitles.
I haven’t seen a ton of movies while living Buenos Aires, but anytime there has been a big release I’ve wanted to see, such as Black Panther, Crazy Rich Asians, and Hidden Figures, they’ve all been available in the market right from the beginning, in English, with Spanish subtitles.
These movies have all crushed box office records, both domestically and globally. It’s not difficult to understand why. The films all had global appeal and fans from the beginning. The stars went on global press tours and premieres to promote their films beyond just one market.
And perhaps most importantly, the teams who were behind the films had a very clear plan from the beginning that made the global success possible: launch a global product.
Why many brands struggle to gain traction in global markets
Expanding beyond the U.S. is often an afterthought or something that planned to do at a future date. And most of the time, that doesn’t work so well. And it definitely doesn’t help your global customers feel like they belong with you.
When I worked my old corporate job, the company made insulin pumps for people with diabetes. They had plans to expand in many different markets, including a number of eager customers who wanted to get their hands on the product. But the process to translate the software within the insulin pumps was cumbersome.
The code that was originally written, didn’t take into account that other languages needed more space to display the information on the screen as originally intended. Eventually, the insulin pumps in various languages were launched, and customers were pleased. But the process could have been much easier (and sales greater), had a plan been set forth from the beginning.
I sat through a presentation the other day where the speaker talked about all the perils brands go through when they try to retrofit a product for global markets, rather than thinking global from the very beginning. One example she gave was how when one application expanded into a market in South America, they didn’t adjust the address fields to match the way addresses were captured locally.
As a result, every time customers went to go make a purchase, they bounced because the required fields didn’t work for them. Once the company recognized its error and made the adjustment, sales increased almost immediately.
But when you add in the cost of making all those retrofitting changes after the fact, and combine it with the lost sales and poor customer experience delivered from customers who tried to make it work but couldn’t, not being inclusive from the beginning is doing your brand more harm than you may think.
To avoid these pitfalls, adopt an inclusive marketing approach from the very beginning. Think about all the various iterations you’ll need for your product in advance, to accommodate customers with various needs. Then bake it into your product development process. And of course, carry it through the various elements of your full customer experience.
As you start to plan for the different types of customers you will serve with your product, and understand the different requirements you have, you and your team can look for creative ways to design your products, services and experiences to meet as many of those needs as possible, with fewer costs.
If you have a software product, that could mean making wireframes up front that allow for different languages or having address fields that don’t force you into a particular convention for a specific region. If you have a retail store, perhaps that means making signage and labels in multiple languages to make it easy for customers who speak different languages to find what they are looking for. Or if you have a customer service center, that may mean scheduling coverage at times where people from around the world can reach you, or giving an option for talking with someone in a different language.
Think inclusive from the beginning. Think global from the beginning. You’ll win many more customers as a result.