Why Marketers Should Look Beyond Borders, and How To Get There

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The digital age has changed marketing forever, amplifying its reach and the voice of the customer. Opportunities presented by real-time data, marketing automation and identity management platforms have enabled marketers to shift from a campaign-centric to customer-centric view of their potential markets.

Now as marketers look beyond borders for their next set of customers, they are quickly finding that the rules of personalization that apply in their home countries may not work as well in other territories – not just in other countries, but even from province to province, city to city.  Sensitivities to language, culture and other subtleties of new markets create pitfalls for marketers looking to move their blanket campaigns into new territories.  Conversely, savvy marketers who can find ways to make these differences into selling points have an opportunity for expansion and ‘wins’ beyond their wildest dreams.

Even though markets and media across the globe are increasingly homogenous, marketing still must be localized or it will not be relevant or resonant. At a minimum, content should be in the language and cultural and geographical context of its intended audience.

Here are three clear and compelling reasons that marketers should prioritize personalization across languages and territories:

  1. Attraction to one’s own culture and language is human nature – It’s easy for marketers to fall into the trap of treating customers as an anonymous mob.  When you reach that point, you are tragically missing opportunities to engage in a highly personal way.  Intuitively, we all know that people tend to be naturally drawn to things that resonate with them at their deepest, most basic levels.  That’s why sales people are taught to use people’s names frequently and old-fashioned successful shop owners used to memorize the buying preferences of everyone in their communities.Now that everything is digital, we marketers can do the same for our companies’ customers – and on a mass scale.  We can move beyond the most basic identifying elements like name, age and location to consider how their reasons for buying vary from territory to territory, including their language, cultural mores, and relative brand awareness.  Customers will instantly recognize and appreciate “seeing themselves” in the engagement, building trust in the relationship.
  2. Global customers expect a personalized experience, too – Personalization and continuity across digital touch points have become fundamental to the online buying experience.  Every major retailer recommends products that customers might like based on previous behavior. Netflix surfaces movies based on themes and viewer behavior. Hulu and Facebook even ask what ads are most relevant to them. And the list goes on.In the future, personalization must consider way more than past buying and browsing behavior to offer a distinctive experience.  Among other things, the site can respond to the locations that consumers are visiting from and building their user experience to suit.  It requires a sensitivity and understanding of their culture, their language, their calendar and even their weather patterns.  There’s no use putting swimwear on the July home page in the southern hemisphere!
  3. Personalization directly impacts engagement, and localization is the ultimate personalization – Intimate customer engagement gives reasons for customers to stick by you and grant you the opportunity maximize their lifetime value.  Studies show that the results pay off: an Adobe Digital Marketing Optimization survey found that the top 20% of marketers who use personalization and optimization tools had conversion rates above 4.5%.  Those that didn’t use these tools converted at 2.5%.  That 2% represents the difference between average and outstanding performance.  And 56% of consumers say access to product information in their own language is a more important factor than price to their purchasing decisions (CSA).

    Marketing localization isn’t easy; it requires commitment and resources beyond asking staff to translate content. Without a central point of globalization, translators may be working independently of each other – unwittingly doing duplicate work and failing to find efficiencies. Luckily today’s marketing technology offers solutions that integrate with their existing platforms to simplify this often painful process, but many departments have not yet clued in to the time, effort and embarrassment it can save.  (Pity the KFC marketer who translated “Finger licking good” into Chinese that reads “We’ll eat your fingers off”!)

    Personalization is vital to effective marketing, and localization – the ultimate level of personalization – is critical to effective marketing across borders. No matter how otherwise targeted and personalized you make your campaigns, it will never have the same impact if it’s not in their native tongue or congruent with their culture.   With such a huge opportunity waiting for your brand across the globe, marketers have a chance to grow revenue and cut costs by building their company’s organizational capability to reach the world.

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