One-Way Globalization Is Over In The Digital Age

“We’ll take the best from the West and we’ll bring it to the rest of the world” – I cannot remember the number of times I have heard this sentence since the early 90’s. Likely as many times as “If this product is good my country it will delight the rest the world” came up as a glittering prize in some business meetings and discussions. Best case it was an assumption – worst case it was a statement. In either case, it misled many leaders in charge of international expansion, by putting them on a fast one-way track, which turned out to be a long winding road. It was also the reflection of a world being split between the ‘leading’ part of it (often in the West) and ‘the rest’.

I say ‘was’ because that time is definitely over – if it ever really existed – for globally savvy people. One-way globalization is over. Nothing is more interesting in today’s globalization than seeing how some industry leaders in, what should be considered as “most of the world”, are leveraging lessons learned, avoiding making mistakes and inspiring others when they go East, West, North or South.

On the other hand, it is exciting to watch truly global players, dealing with fast-changing requirements and diversity in developing and developed markets and partner with experts, to deliver on customer aspirations. Not only do they all have aggressive plans to grow regionally or globally, they also take multiple paths to solidify and accelerate their expansion, by innovating and taking advantage of what our digital world has to offer without waiting. Moreover, they demonstrate that trying is worth it – and better than failing without doing. They also consider foreign markets very seriously, which implies they analyze the competitive landscape based on local experience drivers, while investing in a consumer 360 approach in their target markets.

Here are some recent examples of sensible actions that accelerate digital globalization, within the framework of a world-class strategy. They are very much in line with proven best practices in globalization management and execution.

Understand Customers Upfront

Facts and data do not lie when they urge leaders and practitioners 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 all facets of their experience requirements. Embracing customer diversity is easy, whereas pinpointing key factors driving diversity is far more challenging , yet vital for local operational excellence.

On top of this, trends may change fairly quickly in some developed and 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 and clothing. This evolution should not be ignored in a market of that size.

Shape Customer Experience From The Design Onwards

Creating a compelling customer experience begins with products designed, with customers in mind. Unlike in past decades, most consumers in emerging markets no longer accept buying a product, which is shipped internationally by global manufacturers. Rising and changing expectations play out! They enjoy global brands and products but are eager to make use of these products as if they were locally created and produced. In other words, they look for products made for them, both as individuals and as part of a consumer segment. A great example of such a pro-active global mindset has come from Tim Cook saying that Apple wants to factor Chinese tastes in the design of its products – no longer as an afterthought in the product lifecycle. Apple needs to do this, considering China accounts for more than 25% of the company’s revenue globally.

Consider Localization As An Investment And Profit Driver

There is much evidence showing that 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. 55% of respondents reported 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 and sales in particular, without generating any eventual savings.

Tap Into Specialized Resources And Establish Partnerships In Local Markets

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 they partnered with a local Indian team, to offer and place a powerful torch feature on its popular mobile handsets – which is a functionality that most local customers greatly appreciated. They also highlighted and localized the associated documentation for Indian users. Other examples from the mobile world came from Procter & Gamble and Disney collaborating with an Indian start-up, to enable customers to request a service or share feedback through the missed call feature. They were able to capitalize on a very popular practice in that market

Lead With More Agility With Data And Insights

Keeping up with the evolution of local trends and behaviors is not optional. Developing markets are no exception. 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 and e-commerce, increasing their investment in solutions to better predict and model consumer trends – as well as measuring their marketing and sales performance within their fast-paced environment. The Alibaba Group, among others, has shown the way to unleash the power of data and insights, to solidify global expansion and delight customers in its domestic and international markets. It has invested heavily and wisely to increase the number of innovative products, matching or anticipating customer expectations and tailoring local promotions and pricing accordingly. Such agility enables staying ahead of the game, as far as granular product management is concerned…

Three pillars of the international customer experience powerhouse are to be found in each of these areas and examples – Centricity, Simplicity and Automation. Centricity keeps customers at the heart of all digital globalization efforts, simplicity ensures they are truly engaged in an omnichannel environment and automation makes the creation of consistent and coherent experiences easier. Above all digital globalization is boosted when it is about taking the best from the world, our world.