Going global while keeping it local: How to bring the benefits of localisation to your key foreign markets
Have you ever noticed that the McDonald’s menu in the UK differs wildly to the one served up in China? You can’t take a bite into a fiery Sichuan double chicken burger or sip a red bean boba tea while walking along the Thames.
That’s because the menus are tailored to the specific culture, tastes, and dietary preferences of the region. It’s not exclusive to McDonald’s. Many global brands have a strategy that adapts their products and services to meet the local demands of a target market.
What they’re doing is localisation.
Localisation is the adaptation of products and services to make it more suitable for a particular region, country, or even city. They’re wrapped up in the local style, flavour, and culture.
It doesn’t matter how big the business; a lack of localisation can equal a lack of interest, even failure. When Walmart waltzed into Germany in 1997, it faced difficulties. Its large-and-impersonal supercentres never won over locals as it didn’t resonate with German consumers. Walmart left the country in 2006.
One interesting development to monitor is Starbuck’s venture into Italy. The Seattle-born coffee house has grown to become a global brand, served up in 80 countries. But it faced strong scepticism when it entered the Italian market in 2018. Italy has cultivated a unique coffee culture that is espresso-based and supportive of local independent cafes. With plans to have 37 stores in Italy by the end of 2023, Starbucks is going to have to navigate the local market and prioritise localisation.
Digital commerce localisation
In the context of digital commerce, localisation caters to not only specific tastes and preferences of a given region but also accommodates local linguistic, legal, currency, and payment needs.
With the growth of online stores, balancing global expansion efforts with local relevance is crucial for long-term success in foreign markets.
To effectively serve customers in different regions, brands and retailers can develop a localisation strategy that includes the following:
1. Product catalogue
Tailor product listings to match the cultural preferences and needs of local customers. By providing products that resonate with local customers, businesses can enhance user engagement, build trust, and increase conversion rates. It can also optimise inventory management by ensuring that products are better aligned with local demand, thereby reducing the likelihood of overstocking or understocking.
2. Language and content
Translate product descriptions, website content, and customer support materials into the local language of the local market. Implement a multilingual website, giving users the ability to switch between languages. Additionally, ensure that translated content is culturally appropriate for the audience – considering any local idioms, customs, and cultural references.
There’s a library full of language fails and branded blunders committed by major brands. For example, when General Motors rolled out the Chevy Nova in South America – even though “no va” in Spanish means “it won’t go”. Or KFC’s “finger-lickin’ good” motto was translated into “eat your fingers off” when it first opened in China. Hilarious – but we’re laughing more at you than with you.
3. Currency and pricing
Display product prices and accept payments in the local currency of each market. To build on this, adjust discounts and promotions to match the region’s customs and expectations. Businesses can utilise personalisation functionality to tailor pricing and discounts through their digital commerce platform.
For example, Shopify allows you to tailor international pricing from the Market page in your store admin. If a business is using an app or integration, they can set product prices for a country or region using the PriceList API. Earlier in 2023, Salesforce Commerce Cloud released a new feature to configure stores for multiple currencies, letting shoppers select a currency and prices are shown for the product in the selected country.
4. Payment preferences
Provide payment methods that are popular and trusted in each market, which may include credit cards, digital wallets, local payment gateways, etc. Make sure that you provide real-time currency conversion for international customers. Payment preferences can vary significantly from one country to another. For example, credit card payments are common in the UK, US, and Australia. Germany much less so, whose consumers prefer alternative methods like cash on delivery.
With digital wallets gaining global traction, half of the world’s population is expected to use them by 2025, according to the Mobile Wallets report. The Far East and China will make up the majority share (32%), followed by Africa and the Middle East (16%), then Latin America (12%).
5. Customer support
Provide customer support in the local language and time zone of each local market. The role of localised customer support is to provide customers with the right guidance and support to ensure a smooth and positive customer experience.
For example, if a business is operating in the UK and Australia, ensure that you have customer support that covers the two regions’ time zones. Helping your customers around the clock will improve customer satisfaction by reducing the waiting time in resolving issues as well as strengthen the sense that the brand is there for customers whenever they need support.
Empowering customer service agents with AI-powered chatbots can be part of a CX-first strategy to help boost engagement and customer lifetime value – adding a layer of intelligent automation to the human touch that customers still put value in.
6. Local regulations and compliance
Be aware of local laws and comply with regulations related to digital commerce, such as data privacy, taxes, and consumer protection. If required, update your terms and conditions to reflect the specific legal requirements of each locale (such as the California Consumer Privacy Act) or region (such as the EU’s GDPR privacy law) market.
7. User experience
Thoroughly test localised websites to ensure a seamless user experience, including functionality, navigation, and user interface design. Different markets have their own distinct consumer behaviours, customs, and preferences.
This can include minor differences like date formats (day, month, year; month, day, year) for the US and UK markets all the way to major changes in the UI structure. For example, Chinese consumers prefer detail-rich user interfaces that may seem cluttered to English-speaking consumers. The compactness of characters means that more information can be squeezed into the screen. This impacts how consumers scan and navigate websites and impacts the overall user experience.
The benefits of digital commerce localisation
For brands and retailers to successfully expand and integrate into local markets, a localisation strategy is essential.
Tryzens is a leading international digital commerce agency. We partner with major brands and retailers to help scale their businesses and build engaging customer experiences.
Because our clients are global, many of them have localised their content in order to adapt to the markets they’re present in. Because of this, they’ve seen boosts in a broad range of key metrics, from traffic and new users to revenue and the ecommerce conversion rate.
The global clothing brand Cotton On partnered with Tryzens to launch a new Brazil website – a big step towards their global journey that includes local payment methods, full Portuguese translation, and a unique tech stack to better serve Brazilian consumers.
Cotton On quickly saw the benefits of localisation. In the year after the website launched, the brand boasted:
83% increase in new users
123% increase in sessions
1,077% boost in transactions
982% increase in revenue
429% boost in the ecommerce conversion rate
These results demonstrate the benefits of localisation when brands expand into other markets. On the level of the consumer, a CSA Research report found that 65% of consumers prefer content in their own language and 40% won’t buy from a website if it’s not available in their native language.
Tryzens also prepares the groundwork for businesses that are planning to expand in the future, implementing capabilities to localise content, currencies, and language. So that when they reach the moment to launch into new markets, all they have to do is turn on these localisation capabilities.
Where does localisation fit int your expansion strategy?
Whether you’re already selling across multiple markets or a couple of years away from launching into foreign markets, having the ability to adapt your products to suite the style, flavour, and culture of the local market can be the difference between sustained success and short-lived struggle.
If you’re going global, keep it local.
Connect with Tryzens for expert insight into localisation. We design and develop customer-first strategies so that businesses can engage with their customers wherever they are.
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