Thanks in great part to the Internet and the increasing ease of market expansion, manufacturers are now facing ever-evolving expectations from global customers who want product information—and the ability to make transactions—in their languages of choice.
Customers now crave a personalized connection with the brands they support. Manufacturers are looking for that connection, too. But it’s not easy.
In a recent survey, nearly 85 percent of North American category management and merchandising activity professionals confessed they were underperforming in using insights to support strategies such as:
- Increased localization
- Dynamic pricing
- Improved merchandising
But there is a way to forge those meaningful relationships with all customers – both domestic and international. Manufacturers and brands must leverage data, analytics and language to understand local customer behavior, and use them to drive brand’s assortment localization and allocation efforts.
Start With Partners
Start the process by engaging your retail partners in global markets. Retailers have terrific insights into the interests and buying habits of local customers, and the products or parts they’re most likely to buy. Leveraging this intelligence can guide decisions on localized merchandising assortments, which can unlock significant local competitive advantages.
What information should brands look for? Ask partners for data that suggests increased interest in specific products. In the survey mentioned earlier, most organizations said the best ways to determine how to localize their offerings included:
- Analyzing sales increases in specific products in local markets
- Noting products that were given increased visibility in local stores
- Watching for products that saw continually improving inventory levels
Brands should arm themselves with this information and make sure to properly and proactively align their strategies with retail partners as they allocate merchandise for global markets. This synchronized approach can help deliver the personalized brand experiences global customers want.
Communicate Like a Local
Understanding a local market’s buying preferences is a great first step, but it’s not the only one. Brands can localize digital product information in their global customers’ preferred languages and provide this content to regional retailers and distributors. Equally important, these brands can publish this content on their own channels, such as their corporate websites, mobile apps, social accounts, digital advertisements and more.
Why is language localization so important? English isn’t the “lingua franca” of internet commerce anymore, if it ever was. These days, international customers fully expect online shopping experiences in their local languages, customized to the unique needs of their markets.
A survey of more than 3,000 consumers in 10 countries revealed that nearly 60 percent either spent “more time on sites in their own language than they do in English, or boycott English-language URLs altogether.”
Another survey, this one of exclusively European online consumers, revealed that when given the choice, 90 percent always preferred websites in their own language. Over 40 percent said they never purchase products or services in other languages.
Translating product and online content for international customers is a smart play to prevent these lost opportunities. However, avoid deploying microsites that are short on content, or websites that include a considerable amount of untranslated content. These approaches might initially reduce operation and translation costs, but the SEO benefits they provide are anemic, and the compromised user experience is off-putting. You may be more likely to lose customers than gain them.
Instead, try to provide a properly translated, robust online experience for each market that includes a localized site that can smartly detect the preferred language of your inbound visitors. This technology can prompt them to visit the proper localized version of your site, which can feature a relevant product assortment that fits their local needs.
The Value of Geographic Product Assortment
In addition to providing localized website content, brands should use geographic location to decide on appropriate product mixes and inventory depths supplied to local warehouses and retailers. Regional inventory planning enables manufacturers to readily supply customers in-market—which improves service levels and controls logistics costs.
This localized approach is especially important in global markets, where brands are crossing borders, cultures, time zones and more. Remember that something as simple as a customer’s physical location plays a significant role in what and how they buy.
For instance: consumers in steamy south Texas aren’t likely to buy parkas in July, but Australians might consider it. That’s because July is a winter month in the southern hemisphere.
Be Judicious With Customizations
Of course, as you strive to meet customers where they live, there is such a thing as providing “too much” customized content and products. This is especially true online.
Research suggests that the more a brand customizes its online content for local customers, the more those customers become wary of the company. Why? Customers in smaller international markets want to be treated almost the same as those in more prominent, dominant markets. When content and products skew too far from a company’s core brand persona or offering, customers suspect they’re getting a compromised experience, or that the brand is “trying too hard” to woo them.
It’s tricky stuff. You can avoid the risks of over-customization by following the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of your translated website’s content should mirror your origin flagship website’s. The rest can feature localized content.
Place this special customized messaging on your home page, product landing pages, special promotions and local customer support information. This can maximize the benefits of using it where it’s most effective.
Putting This Into Effect
As always, effective marketing, product allocations and other customer-facing decisions depend on recognizing what your local customers prefer.
Understanding language preferences, cultural nuances and analyzing site engagement across those languages is a key way for brands to better connect with their customers and feature products that will resonate best with them. This intelligence can inform decisions to effectively meet regional customers’ needs and help accelerate brand growth in global markets.
Craig Witt is Executive Vice President of Global Sales, Marketing and Go-To-Market at MotionPoint.