Taking a company global can be both exciting and profitable, but it is not without its pitfalls
01 Thinking localising means translating the language
Language translation is the first step in adapting to a foreign market - but it is not the only step. Solely translating the language of a product is guaranteed to keep a business from achieving its full potential globally.
Many corporations make the error of only partly converting the language on their websites into the local language due to factors such as CMS restrictions. Put yourself in the shoes of the user - if the brand you are trying to engage with has half-heartedly tried to converse with you, would you invest your time and money in the product? Translate it across the entire site or it is better not to do it at all.
Invest time and research into local dialects and the populations you are trying to attract. In most countries, citizens cannot be clumped together in one homogeneous group. On one occasion, we worked with an online travel brand with a large market share in Asia. They had spent millions of pounds translating their site into Malay for their Malaysian users and were at a loss as to why they were not seeing results. Malaysia’s population is very ethnically diverse and comprises Malays, Chinese, Indians, and cultures for whom English is a common language. Many businesses conduct their work in English, it is frequently used in official correspondence and Malaysian online users are accustomed to visiting websites that use English. Without comprehensive research, they had missed a trick and unfortunately, wasted a significant amount of money.
It’s also not just about translating your content into the local language but translating it in the right context. If you have a translation company working with you, make sure they understand your business and the message each piece of content is conveying. Avoid depending solely on Google Translate. Let’s be honest - as accurate and helpful as it can be, it still has its limitations, including its inability to understand context and tense. Considering that your products are going to be the core of your business, you simply can’t afford to make mistakes, regardless of how small they are.
02 Making key decisions based solely on market research
This is another common misconception that companies hold, from SMEs right through to larger corporations. One of the big challenges senior executives often encounter is that their products are not hitting the mark and the targeted customer base in a specific market, or their business is not growing in certain markets. In many occasions, this is compounded by the fact that their products or services are launched abroad based on general market trends and a piece of market research conducted either internally or externally.
Market research data is important and can offer many useful insights, but it needs to go hand-in-hand with behavioural elements. For example, many years ago when a well-known home appliance brand was looking into creating a new washing machine specifically for the Indian market, their market research surveys told them that Indians wanted a machine that would specifically focus on killing germs and bacteria. After a team went out to India to talk to some of their target audience they realised that, although consumers said they were interested in the hygiene element, what was more pressing was the need for short washing cycles so that clothes could be washed and hung out to dry in the heat before people headed off to work. If they had relied on market research alone this feature, which is hugely important to the Indian market, would never have been included.
03 Using the same, one-size-fits-all business model
It would be an oversight to believe that what works for your home market will work everywhere. Although business basics may remain the same, cultures vary and impact the decisions users make. For this reason, it is more nuanced than just changing the names of products and switching over to the correct currency. The entire ecosystem in which businesses operate needs to be assessed. Look at their traditions and how the overall economy affects the way people behave and their expectations. Have you read up about their legal system? This could influence how much information your users are willing to give online. Do you know how the country history could impact your local users’ attitude towards media consumption?
The devil is in the detail. By ensuring that no shortcuts are taken when launching an international project, it makes the transition into a new market smoother, promotes your brand in a positive light and provides the best possible experience for your new audience.
Thorough research, carried out with cultural intelligence and an open mind yields the greatest results when connecting with users on a global stage. To have a holistic view of a market and its people, it’s important to look further than their language or the market trends. Delve into and understand the relationship between its ecosystem (e.g. history, economy and political situation, infrastructure setup) and their behaviours. This will not only help you shape your product and business strategies, but also enable you to spot opportunities and upcoming trends to stand out in a busy market.