Navigating the Mobile-First Global Content Market

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Article ImageYou’ve created a killer app or mobile site that Americans are flocking to. But if you really want to grow your brand and maximize returns on your efforts, you’ll need to take those digital goods offshore and target users in other countries with content that’s adapted for their unique culture.

For most, abandoning this proven playbook is folly. Consider, for example, Disney’s blockbuster Black Panther movie. In its first week, the film grossed more than $277 million domestically and more than $228 million in foreign markets (the latter representing 45% of the flick’s total intake), per Box Office Mojo. But imagine if the studio decided not to release this juggernaut internationally because it didn’t want to go to the trouble of dubbing the dialogue for various foreign languages and making and distributing extra release prints.

But globalizing your mobile content often involves more heavy lifting than many companies realize. Customizing your digital content for foreign audiences and localizing your app or site requires careful planning. Cutting corners, ignoring the preferences of a given country, and making insular assumptions can backfire. But the right strategies can pay major dividends.

Breaking Boundaries and Bridging Cultures

Why is globalizing your mobile content worth it? Ask founder and lead analyst at MobileGroove, Peggy Anne Salz, and she’ll tell you that it’s a no-brainer. “If it’s possible to put your digital content asset on as many digital shelves as possible, then why wouldn’t you do that? Today, this isn’t just possible—it’s essential,” Salz says. “It’s smart business to take advantage of uncontested markets and adapt your content to the region, local preferences, tastes, and cultural sensitivities of different audiences.”

Juliana Pereira, VP of marketing for the translation management platform Smartling, agrees. “More and more consumers in global markets are discovering and interacting with brands on their smartphones. But if your brand doesn’t create content for them or localize that content to resonate with them, you are effectively leaving money on the table or, worse, giving your competition a leg up in that market,” says Pereira.

Put another way, if content is restricted by boundaries, so is the brand behind it, insists Allon Caidar, CEO and founder of TVPage, which manages and localizes video commerce experiences for global retailers. “Content today must drive the ongoing engagement point between brand and consumer,” notes Caidar. “In order to maintain and scale consumer loyalty, a brand must ensure that there is an ongoing stream of content that continues to connect and resonate with new consumers everywhere.”



Today Mobile, Tomorrow the World

Make no mistake: While content optimized for desktop experiences is important, mobile is the mode of choice for most consumers today, especially when it comes to apps. That is why a globalizing effort should give first priority to small screen users. Note that mobile now represents 69% of digital media time spent versus about 31% on desktop, according to comScore’s “2017 U.S. Cross-Platform Future in Focus” report. Additionally, 57% of all digital media usage is commanded by mobile apps, and smartphone apps alone account for more than half of digital media time spent, based on “The 2017 U.S. Mobile App Report” from comScore.

In its 2017 “Mobile’s Hierarchy of Needs” report, comScore revealed that Indonesia and India are the most mobile-focused over desktop, with approximately 90% and 55% of digital media time spent on mobile devices, respectively. Mexico, Spain, and Brazil are also particularly mobile-first.

The prospects and opportunities in many of these markets are tantalizing for companies aiming to globalize their content. Consider that the fastest-growing mobile market on the planet is currently sub-Saharan Africa, where half of all the mobile money services are located and which is expected to have 500 million cellphone subscribers by 2020, per the GSM Association. Counterpoint Research reveals that, with around 650 million mobile device users, India commands a larger smartphone market than America, but 1 billion Indians still lack a smartphone. And smartphone penetration is anticipated to hit more than 62% in the Asia-Pacific region by 2021, according to eMarketer’s 2017 “Internet and Mobile Users in Asia-Pacific” report.

“For many people around the world, their smartphone is the first and only digital device they own. And many people have reduced their usage of desktop computers and laptops, opting for smartphones,” says Dmytro Moroz, digital marketing strategist at Kanbanize, a software publisher based in Bulgaria, which has recently translated its website and expert content into additional languages after expanding into Spanish-speaking and German-speaking regions.

“Outside of the U.S. and Europe, it’s a mobile-first world, especially in Asia and Africa. From an awareness perspective, brands will have more reach if they build their content in mobile-first formats,” says Robb Hecht, adjunct marketing professor at Baruch College in New York City.

Pereira says many markets are so mobile-dependent for a simple reason: “Mobile devices are significantly cheaper than desktops and tablets in these markets.” Consequently, “people in developing countries coming online every day are doing so through mobile instead of desktop.”

Thomas Kriebernegg, CEO at App Radar, an app management and translation solutions provider, says the biggest mobile market of all is China, where “there was no desktop or PC age. This technology was mostly skipped, so mobile was adopted directly.”

Hecht insists that in Africa and Asia, desktop is practically dead. “Desktops are more expensive, and so is paying for an internet connection. Wireless service is more cost-effective.”

But prioritizing mobile over desktop for a particular market will require a different approach to the content you’re seeking to globalize. “Experiences are often more transactional and layered on mobile but slightly less immersive than desktop. In other words, there’s more real estate on desktop, so [there’s] more room for multiple elements to interact,” says Pereira. “Mobile relies on a series of smaller interactions since space is limited. Some companies even scale back the amount of content within their mobile app compared to their website to prevent endless scrolling and clicking, which can exhaust or detract from the mobile experience. For some traditional or big tech businesses, it may make more sense to design for desktop first while remembering to apply responsive design best practices for the mobile version.”

Another challenge is lack of available real estate on and designing a user-friendly layout for a mobile screen. “Different languages require different layouts. Some languages read right to left, like Arabic and Hebrew, while others are character-based, such as Japanese and Chinese, and others, like Hindi and Russian, use different alphabets,” Pereira adds. “Some languages can take up more space than others on a screen, and in the case of a mobile device, this can cause more scrolling because less of the key content is visible when the user loads the page. For example, Arabic not only has the challenge of reading right to left, but it is also a lengthy language that
requires a lot more words than English to express most phrases. With less room on mobile, it’s important to think about how the language will look in the context of the screen so that the translated text doesn’t break the design or layout of the mobile site or app.”

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