Tips for Global Marketers: The 80-20 Rule of Glocalization

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This is a summary of the Globalization + Localization = “Glocalization” session at the Internet Summit in Raleigh, N.C., on November 19, 2015.

“Eighty percent of behavior is globally the same,” asserted Santosh Subramanyam, eCommerce Manager, User Experience, for Marriott International. “But 20% is locally driven, and that’s what counts. This is our 80-20 rule.”

For example, the customer journey for choosing a hotel is pretty universal—search, evaluate, book—but that process is executed differently in different regions.

Understanding local markets

“Too often we create products and expect customers will approach them in the way we think they will,” he said. To drive results in individual countries or regions, you have to consider local influences. That means factoring cultural behaviors and sensitivities into content and web design.

“Then you transform the local experience,” he said.

Here’s the process the Marriott team uses:

  1. Research behaviors and preferences in key existing and emerging markets
  2. Determine user needs in each region
  3. Design a localized experience
  4. Test and iterate
  5. Implement across product lines

The team relies on in-market research to understand basic needs and local preferences. “Data trumps opinion. We’re testing constantly all through the year in various regions and our people who work in each region give us feedback constantly,” Subramanyam explained.

This even includes some on-the-street, one-to-one interviewing and testing. “You learn so many things,” he laughed.

Keeping up with technology trends

Privacy issues are rapidly evolving in developed nations and more countries are getting online fast—and going mobile. Thus, a critical aspect of localizing global content is keeping up with national infrastructure and regulatory advancements like:

  • Germany’s privacy requirements
  • Canada’s anti-spam legislation
  • China’s ban on Google maps
  • South Africa’s and Latin America’s increasing smart phone penetration

Factoring these changes into your global web, email, and content strategies can feel daunting, but failure to do so tanks performance, impacts revenues and, in some extreme cases, incurs regulatory restrictions or fines.

Rethinking UX to reflect local use behaviors

Revisit your global UX to improve usability, Subramanyam counseled.

The rise in worldwide mobile usage means more people are encountering your site and consuming your content via a phone or tablet. And then there was Google’s mobile-friendliness preference. Many marketers have already responded to these trends by creating websites, emails, and other online assets that are responsive—or building mobile-specific sites to serve up content.

But there are other important mobile considerations.

On a global scale, experts now recommend checking off your UI for ease of use by human thumbs instead of computer mice. They also suggest avoiding terms like “click here” (a mouse-driven activity) in favor of terms like “buy”, “book”, “learn” or other results-related wording for buttons.

UX is also important on a local scale. Understanding how different cultures interact with your web page or content is critical to getting visitors to actually use it, Subramanyam noted. In Japan, for instance, his team found that users preferred visuals to typing.

Instead of typing in a destination city or zip code to find a hotel, they wanted to select from a series of interactive country maps. In response, the Marriott team retooled the Japanese site with a series of small maps at the top left of the home page for easy access to searching. The localization increased site performance 19% in the first two weeks alone.

Localizing visual content & web pages

Visual content is appealing because images grab our attention faster than words. This holds true for the dominant graphic on your website, a short video on your corporate YouTube page, or the latest pin served up on your business Pinterest page.

But all visual content isn’t suitable for a global audience, Subramanyam cautioned. “Remember that images convey meaning,” he said.

Subramanyam explained how his team factors cultural norms into selecting visual content for individual country sites. For Arab countries, for instance, the team chooses gorgeous photos of landscapes, nature, or buildings for their websites. The photos rarely include people so as not to show objectionable attire to the local audience. “These are conservative countries, so no beach photos,” he said.

The same care goes into selecting colors for country sites. For example, The Ritz Carlton website for the U.S. has a white background, but the brand’s Chinese site features a blue field to reflect local preferences for style and local association of the color blue with luxury.

Prioritizing glocalization

Too many marketers, Subramanyam said, think translation is enough to compete in the global marketplace. “But global is not just translating,” he asserts. “Globalization meets the basic need, but glocalization really pays.”

Follow his advice to improve your company’s global marketing performance.

“Approaching glocalization with cultural empathy,” Subramanyam concluded, “makes any experience tasteful and useful to different audiences around the world.”

Want to learn more from Marriott?

For more tips on localization and global marketing, tune in to the upcoming webinar, How to Improve Global Customer Experience by Integrating Website Translation & Content Marketing, on Wednesday, December 9th at 2:00 PM EST.

You’ll hear actionable insights from Sonia Zamborsky, Marriott’s Director of Product Field Support & Communications. Other featured localization and global marketing experts will include:

  • Robert Rose, Chief Strategy Officer, Content Marketing Institute
  • Nitish Singh, Associate Professor of Global Business, Boeing Institute of Int. Business, St. Louis University
  • Clint Poole, Vice President of Global Marketing, Lionbridge

> Interested? Register for the webinar here.

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