Customers in Developing Markets Need Developed Content and Products Too
When mapping global growth opportunities on a regular basis it is crucial to prioritize business requirements and to plan for actions accordingly. This means categorizing countries according to a number of criteria ranging from local demand to local competition. Although some developing or emerging markets have been listed in top tiers for some time, their positioning in business expansion has not always been reflected in effective efforts to produce content and products meeting their actual customer requirements. It might stem from the fact that, historically speaking, globalization has been driven by many Western companies. More often than not it has been based on an assumption or -- even worse -- a statement that basic content would be good enough to convince these consumers to purchase products considered "must haves" in other countries. The "Taking the Best from the West" era is over in a digital world where customers are more aware than ever and competition is never far away.
Great content that goes hand in hand with great products is a baseline for each country and each individual. However "good" does not mean the same thing to everyone and may evolve over time. This guideline should be followed by anyone who wants to sell and win in developing markets and avoid oversimplifying or underestimating their aspirations. And it must be considered from day one in order to make some global leaders change their mind about the glittering "if it is good for my country it is good for the rest of the world" prize. Here is a short list of tactical to-do's which helps accelerate digital expansion to untapped markets with a truly global strategy.
- Target audiences must be understood upfront: Facts and data do not lie as they urge everyone to go beyond assumptions and preferential considerations. Getting to know customers as prospects, decision makers, buyers, and users is the best way to effectively deliver on their experience requirements. Embracing customer diversity is easy to say whereas pinpointing key factors driving diversity is way more challenging, yet vital for local business excellence. Moreover trends may change fairly quickly in developing markets as new purchase standards prevail and new segments of customers appear. For example the Indian middle class has grown significantly over the past years, consuming and spending more on high-end products such as cars or clothing.
- It all starts with design: Creating a compelling customer experience begins when products are designed with customers in mind. Most consumers in emerging markets no longer expect to buy any product shipped by global manufacturers internationally like in past decades. They enjoy global brands and products but are eager to make use of these products as if they were locally created and produced. A recent and great example of such a global mindset comes from Tim Cook saying that Apple wants to factor Chinese tastes in the design of its products. Apple needs to do this considering China accounts for more than 25% of the company's revenue globally.
- Missed or poor localization does not pay off: According to research from Common Sense Advisory in 2014 75% of respondents in 10 major markets (including Russia, Indonesia, Turkey, Egypt, Brazil, and People's Republic of China) said they wanted products in their native language. Additionally, 55% of respondentsreported buying only on platforms where information was presented in their language. Those with limited English proficiency purchased only in their own language 80% of the time. Therefore failing to deliver properly localized content has a real impact on customer experience in general, and consumer behaviors in particular.
- Specialized resources locally are invaluable: Considering cultural sensitivity, linguistic accuracy, and other market specific requirements resources must be selected based on their expertise, experience, and location. As programs and projects may be centrally managed in-house or externally, local resources should be engaged to create content and products ensuring an intuitive and natural experience for local customers. Nokia did this very well when it partnered with a local Indian team to offer and place a powerful flash feature on its mobile handsets next to the camera, which is functionality most local customers appreciate. They also highlighted and localized the associated documentation for Indian users.
- Data and insights provide agility: Keeping up with the evolution of local trends and behaviors is not an option. Developing markets are no exception here. At all stages of digital globalization data and insights help anticipate change, foster innovation and accelerate deployment at scale. This is evidenced by a number of global players in FMCG, consumer electronics, or e-commerce increasing their investment in solutions to better predict and model consumer trends as well as to measure their marketing and sales performance within their fast-paced environment. Alibaba, among others, shows the way to unleash the power of data and insights to solidify global expansion and delight customers in developing markets.
The "rest of the world" is obviously "most of the world" in digital globalization. As a number of "developing markets" are the "developed markets" of tomorrow it is best to avoid underestimating their expectations and to start walking in the shoes of their customers today.
(Image courtesy of Shuttertock.)
Ignoring content globalization is no longer an option in international business environments, and questions and comments may come up on how to best define, optimize, and execute against a strategy-and how the expected ROIs and growth can be ensured and measured effectively. Generally speaking, creating and developing awareness around global challenges remains crucial to align and change mindsets-which is the foundation of the organizational and process transformation needed to take up these challenges. Once the stage is set, processes can be defined and implemented in line with global business objectives and enabling technology and resources can be identified.
Much focus has to be put on processes--such as content authoring, asset management, internationalization, localization, or SEO--to deliver on digital content effectiveness and customer experience globally. It is equally important to think about the organizational framework where these processes become most valuable, and best practices across the board. For leaders in large and multinational organizations it often means moving toward a cross-functional evolution rather than spurring a revolution by forcing their way into silos.
A few weeks ago a peer told me a story highlighting the value of localization for training activities and deliverables. In short, materials were designed and sessions were set up by various leaders in his company to train a number of teams around the world, led by instructors virtually or face-to-face and based on e-learning modules. When the time came to capture and measure the overall effectiveness of training sessions it appeared targets were missed in some markets. Following a thorough investigation and review the root cause was found in a poor local experience generated by English-only materials and--equally important--in the format of remote sessions.