When it comes to giving international customers a great cross-channel online experience, savvy marketers must find the best way to engage them in their preferred languages. But marketers must also accomplish this without weakening their overall brand messaging.
On the one hand, it’s economical and practical to maintain a completely standardized approach to global marketing—meaning, the customer experience remains the same no matter which market is being served.
On the other hand, businesses that fail to appropriately customize their efforts for different markets can drive away customers with tone-deaf content and products.
It’s a balancing act—and a tricky one at that. Fortunately, there are ways to successfully walk the tightrope between content standardization and customization.
There are many attractive reasons to standardize branding and products across global markets, such as:
- It empowers a company to globalize while leveraging economies of scale
- It eases efforts in content creation and management by ensuring the same content is delivered across all channels
- Customers see the same images, product descriptions and more—no matter where they are—which creates global product and brand unity
- Customers like being treated the same by your brand, no matter where they live.
This one-size-fits-all approach focuses on volume, cost management and efficiency. But there are downsides. The administrative costs of coordinating worldwide efforts can be significant, and it interferes with capitalizing on local market trends.
An alternative is decentralized operations with strongly localized, multinational approaches. Here, local teams may manage separate content libraries and oversee different marketing efforts. Customizing products and brands for local markets also has benefits:
- Marketing efforts more naturally incorporate the needs of customers in different markets
- Companies deliver a more relevant customer experience, which generates positive in-market brand credibility. It boosts conversion rates, too
- Buyers in different markets have different UX expectations. Using market-specific images, product descriptions, payment methods and more helps make them comfortable
- Customers appreciate brands that “get” their culture. Customization adds a personal touch
However, this approach isn’t scalable or efficient.
Balanced, Transnational Strategies
These days, savvy companies have adopted a more balanced, transnational strategy that mixes global and multinational practices. Decision-making and content management are globalized, while in-market teams have the freedom to adopt marketing strategies that fit their local customers’ needs.
This leverages both the economies of scale and flexibility to drive bottom-line growth. It’s the balance between standardization and customization.
The question isn’t if companies should serve global customers in their native languages. It’s how to do it with the right mix of standardized and customized content so every customer enjoys a culturally relevant and resonant experience. This must also be accomplished in ways that don’t overburden internal resources or budgets.
This is more complicated than it seems. Companies can run the risk of over-standardizing their content and offerings for global markets, which largely ignores local customers’ needs. You can also over-localize, which can either come off as too “try hard” by local customers, or can’t be sustained by your internal teams without generating significant effort and expense.
The secret is compromise.
Same Language, Different Customers
The standardization/customization conundrum comes into play when a company serves several countries that share a common language—as seen in Latin America, or when companies want to reach the U.S., UK and Canada. Due to the shared languages, standardizing content for these markets may seem like a straightforward decision … but you must consider the business and cultural nuances.
For example: Can one digital customer experience—often led with a website—published in the common language effectively serve all of those markets? Or does each market require its own website and experience? Are there subtle, but crucial, linguistic differences between markets that can impact the customer experience? (The use of word apartment in the U.S. versus the term flat in the UK is a great example of this, as is pants versus trousers.)
And what about region-specific languages? Or legal requirements? A Spanish-language website may be acceptable to customers in Madrid and Mexico City, but it would alienate Spaniards who speak Catalan or Basque. And in some Canadian regions, brand messaging must be available in French as well as English. It’s the law.
Consideration for these and other factors will help you determine what content should be standardized, and what should be customized for specific global markets.
To Be Continued…
Be sure to read part two of this three-part series, which will illustrate the impact of standardization and customization on SEO results and UX expectations. It also provides insightful questions that can help your brand find the right balance between standardized and customized content.Last updated on October 14, 2020