Selling Across Cultures: Is your Company Global e-ready?

Selling Across Cultures: Is your Company Global e-ready?

In theory, the growth of the Internet as a commercial medium has made it easier than ever for any company, regardless of its size or location, to reach out and transact with customers globally. In practice, however, doing so in an effective way is challenging.

“When e-commerce first started to boom, it was assumed that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach would suffice,” explains Peter O’Connor.  “Today we understand that a highly standardized approach doesn’t work since foreign consumers have differ needs from local ones, on several levels.”

“However, many of these companies still aren’t doing enough in terms of their Global e-readiness. Travelocity, the US-based online travel agency, flopped in Europe because it failed to grasp the specific needs of European customers. And as other OTA’s branch out into China, India, Brazil and Russia, its local, rather than global, players who dominate these markets precisely because they are closer to the customer.” So, how can internet-based companies improve their Global e-readiness?

Don’t get Lost in Translation

Even if someone speaks English as a second language, they don’t’ necessarily want to shop in it. Insisting that they transact with you in English thus is doomed to failure. And when you consider countries such as India, where there are multiple primary languages and dozens of regional dialects, you begin to understand the scale of the problem facing companies wishing to be truly global players, and also perhaps understand why in these rapidly developing markets local operators tend to be the leading ecommerce companies.

Understand the Cultural Language    

Different customers have different priorities, buy different products / services, and react differently to marketing initiatives. For example, Asian web users in particular like 'busy' screens with lot of activity and a lot of closely formatted text, often with what westerners would consider as garish colors. And not only do colors have different meanings, you also need to be careful with the use of icons or other pictorial elements that can have different meanings from one culture to another.

Adapt to Local Ways of Doing Business  

This may be something as simple as facilitating payments using methods other than plastic. If cash is preferred, a global company that insists people pay with credit cards is thus unlikely to be successful, particularly when competing with a local one that finds a way to facilitate such cash payments. The logistics of delivery can also be a decisive factor.  Not all regions have effective delivery systems and global players need to be both flexible and innovative in order to penetrate new markets.

Above all, preparing to serve an international and culturally diverse customer base means tailoring the online user interface to local needs. Ultimately, you want to make it as easy and as intuitive as possible for customers to do business with you.  That means adapting to them, not expecting them to adapt to you. 

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