Thanks to the power of the Internet and the increasing ease of market expansion, retailers are proactively connecting with global customers now more than ever. But these shoppers increasingly expect to research products and make transactions in their preferred languages.
Equally important, they expect to discover and buy products that are relevant to them, their cultural norms and their geographic locations.
But meaningful relationships with both domestic and international customers can be forged by leveraging data, analytics and language to understand local customer behavior and drive localized assortment and allocation efforts.
Retail partners within your global markets probably understand the interests and buying habits of customers better than you do. Lean on their expertise to guide decisions on localized product assortments.
Engaging your partners in global markets can unlock significant local competitive advantages. Make sure to ask them for data that suggests increased interest in specific products.
In the survey cited above, most organizations said the best ways to determine how to localize their offerings included:
- Noting products that saw consistently improving inventory levels;
- Observing which products were given increased visibility in local stores; and
- Analyzing sales increases in specific products in local markets.
Brands can align their strategies with retail partners to capitalize on this information as they localize product offerings for global markets and deliver the personalized brand experiences customers expect.
Communicate Like A Local
Buying preferences are only one lens through which to view a local market. Brands should also offer content in customers’ preferred languages, and provide it to regional retailers and distributors. A localized digital presence through corporate web sites, mobile apps, social accounts, digital advertisements and more is also vital.
Research proves that international customers fully expect online shopping experiences in their local languages, customized to the unique needs of their markets.
In a survey of more than 3,000 consumers in 10 countries, nearly 60% of European consumers either spent more time on sites in their own language, or boycotted English-language URLs altogether. Another survey revealed that when given the choice, 90% of consumers always prefer web sites in their own language. Over 40% said they never purchase products or services in other languages.
If you’re not translating online content for international customers, you’re losing opportunities. Avoid rushing in without a plan, however: microsites that are short on content, or web sites that include a considerable amount of untranslated content might initially reduce operation and translation costs, but they lack SEO benefits, and consumers find such inferior experiences off-putting.
The right approach is often a fully translated, robust online experience for each market, and technology that can detect the preferred language of your inbound visitors, direct them to the localized version of your site, and show them a relevant product assortment that fits their local needs.
Why Feature Geographic Product Assortments?
Geographic targeting of products is vital in global markets, where brands cross borders, cultures, time zones and more. Regional inventory planning enables retailers to readily supply customers in-market, improving service levels and controlling logistics costs.
Remember that something as simple as a customer’s physical location plays a significant role in what and how they buy. Consider, for example, that July is a winter month in the southern hemisphere. Australians might be likely to buy parkas during that part of the year, while most consumers in the U.S. Midwest wouldn’t dream of it.
Customize With Care
There is, of course, such a thing as too much localization.
Research suggests that customers in a company’s secondary or tertiary international markets want to be treated almost the same as those in the company’s primary market. When companies skew their product offerings and content too far from their core brand persona, customers become wary, suspecting they’re getting a compromised experience. It can look like the brand is “trying too hard” to ingratiate itself.
You can avoid the risks of over-customization with the 80/20 rule: your translated web site’s content should mirror that of your origin site’s content 80% of the time, and the other 20% can feature localized content.
Your home page, product landing pages, special promotions and local customer support information are the most effective places for customized messaging.
Bring It Home
Effective marketing relies on understanding customer needs and meeting them, so it’s crucial to know what your markets prefer in product allocation and other customer-facing decisions.
Giving attention to cultural nuances and language preferences tells customers that you care about forming authentic connections with them. Analyzing customer data can inform you how to meet their needs, feature products that resonate with them and supercharge your brand growth in global markets.
Craig Witt is the Executive Vice President of Global Sales and Marketing at MotionPoint, a company that solves the operational complexity and cost of web site localization. He has 28 years’ experience in building, leading and scaling high performing Go-To-Market teams at global enterprises.