L2 released in partnership with Amplience the Intelligence Report: Localization. Here are eight steps brands can take to localize their global presence.
Follow e-commerce adoption with e-commerce presence. L2 Index brands operate 32 sites worldwide on average, with 82% of those sites translated into local languages and 57% e-commerce enabled. Unsurprisingly, global brands are most likely to offer e-commerce in the top-10 countries with the highest e-commerce sales (China, U.S., U.K., Japan, Germany, France, South Korea, Canada, Russia and Brazil). But many companies have catching up to do outside of the U.S. and Western Europe. While 67% of Index brands have a brick-and-mortar presence in top e-commerce countries outside of the U.S. and Western Europe, only 47% have an e-commerce presence.
Diversify information structure. Seventy-four percent of global brand sites in China have different information architecture than the headquartered country site. That is also the case for 52% of global sites in Japan and 52% of global sites in South Korea. Among brands in L2’s Index, 52% have adopted a unified information architecture system and 34% have adopted a mix. Brands considering customizing certain brand sites should focus on the top e-commerce markets in APAC (China, Japan, South Korea), as it is where most brands deviating from a standard IA strategy start.
Go Beyond Worldwide Shipping. The L2 study on Localization finds an inverse relationship between how many countries a brand can ship to, and their responsiveness to local nuances. For example, Net-A-Porter ships to more countries than any other brand (172) but its global site translated into just four languages, or just 42% of its shipping geography. J.Crew also ships to 107 countries with the help of Borderfree, but its global sites have minimal translation and no localized content.
Invest in Mobile. In the top e-commerce countries, smartphone usage has neared ubiquity. Mobile purchases are playing an increasingly important role in online buys, as mobile transactions make up approximately 34% of retail e-commerce transactions. Mobile is especially important in Japan, South Korea, and the U.K., where mobile transactions account for more than 40% of online commerce in each country. While brands have made investments in mobile, many are deemed inadequate. Roughly a quarter of global brand sites in Brazil, China, Russia, and South Korea are not deemed “mobile friendly” by Google, which negatively impacts search visibility.
Translate Site Content. Consumers are four times as likely to purchase from websites in their native language. While this makes a clear case for global brands to make translation a priority, they must overcome barriers to translation: quality, cost, and content production. Quality is the top challenge in site translation, according to marketers, because brands must localize site copy and product terminology to account for regional dialects. For example, consumers in Argentina and Spain should view different versions of a Spanish text. Tory Burch and ASOS account for regionalism in their clothing terminology. (For example, they refer to a sweater as “knitwear” or a “jumper” on the U.K. site.) Even if consumers in both the U.S. and U.K. understand the meaning of a jumper, adjusting these regionalisms is important because it affects appearance in search results. To be found by local consumers, website content must match the language and terminology that is used to search.
Syndicate for Scale. Not all regional site content needs to be made from scratch. In fact, content that relies on imagery provides an opportunity for scaling. While content featuring local celebrities can be customized by region, product imagery can almost always be syndicated. Estée Lauder is a great example of a brand that does standardized global content well: The “Estée Edit” blog and “3-Minute Beauty” video tutorial series are syndicated to and translated for all global sites re-launched on the brand’s new platform, first debuted in the U.S. in November 2014. The only localized content investments that can be found are on the brand’s Japanese and South Korean sites. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Uniqlo uses different product images in each country, an inefficient practice.
Strategically invest in sites. Just as syndication can eliminate redundancies in a global operation, strategically choosing which site features to focus on can help avoid costly projects with little ROI. When it comes to site features, one size does not fit all. For example, APAC consumers place a high value on social benefits (e.g. exclusive and enhanced customer service) while globally consumers value loyalty programs for economic benefits (discounts, free products, and free shipping). Brands have mirrored their programs to these preferences: In China, 36% of loyalty programs entice customers with consultation and concierge services vs. just 22% in North America and Western Europe.
Furthermore, mobile purchases and QR codes have higher importance in China, Japan, and South Korea (countries with some of the highest rates of mobile commerce in the world). Approximately 52% of global brand sites in China feature QR codes on their site vs. just 18% in Japan and 7% in South Korea, suggesting room for improvement.
Harmonize pricing. Price comparison is the most common online shopping activity among shoppers worldwide, on par with product research. However, just half of global Index brand include prices in local currencies across all brand sites in the top e-commerce countries. Among top e-commerce countries, Brazil, China, Russia, and South Korea are the least likely to have sites with prices listed. Exceptions: Coach and Michael Kors advertise their prices even in countries where they do not directly sell online.
Not only does global price differences create discontent among buyers, it encourages cross-border shopping and arbitrage. Examples of egregious price differences: Lancôme mascaras cost 90% more in China and 62% in Brazil relative to the U.S. Taxes, import duties, exchange rate fluctuations, operational expenses and localized product assortments cause differences in price, but brands are instill consistency where they can. J.Crew for examples significantly lowered its Canadian e-commerce prices after local shoppers criticized country-specific markups – 20 to 50% higher than U.S. prices excluding taxes and tariffs.
Download a copy of L2’s Intelligence Report: Localization for more.