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Three Tips for a Successful Global Customer Strategy During the Holidays

by Dominic Kinnon  |  
December 2, 2013

As the holiday season gets underway, brands across the globe are launching their seasonal marketing campaigns. The key to successfully engaging with consumers during the busiest shopping time of the year is to do so in a manner that is personalized for each customer.

Engaging through the right channel and at the right time are important things to consider, but another critical component to delivering a contextual customer experience revolves around language and culture.

Ten years ago, 80% of the online population spoke English. Flash forward to 2013, and it has completely reversed, with only 20% of the online population representing English speakers. Considering this reversal, the ability to engage with customers in their local language and with consideration for cultural nuances is something global brands should not overlook. After all, the foundation of any global customer experience is the ability to communicate in the user's preferred language.

To execute a successful, global customer strategy this holiday season, marketers should keep the following three tips in mind.

1. Make language a priority

Fortune 500 companies have admitted that while they deliver product information in up to 35 languages, they often only provide support in one or two languages. Because customers prefer to interact and consume content in their native language (understandably so), that gap quickly breaks down the experience.

To close this gap, marketers should use translation technology solutions including automated translation that enable the delivery of content across languages for new markets in real time. Through the use of translation technology, global brand values can be transformed into a locally appropriate context to drive customer acquisition and retention.

2. Be considerate of the culture

Localization goes beyond translation, especially during the holiday season, when annual holidays differ greatly based on location. When searching on your website or receiving a campaign message, not only should your customers be able to read the communications in their native language, but the content must be relevant and personalized for their culture. Whether that includes the appropriate holiday, terms native to their specific regions, or even different customs, brands cannot afford to miss the mark.

There are tools available to help marketers manage the complexity of global multilingual campaigns so that customer communication can be as contextual as possible---which includes a combination of localization services and technology to consolidate and optimize the most relevant multilingual content, multilingual SEO, social media analysis, and campaign analysis.

3. Don't be afraid of social

Over 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are being generated per day, and 90% of that content has been generated in the last two years alone, primarily through social channels. Due to cultural and language obstacles, many brands may be hesitant to attempt to interact with consumers across alternate languages and cultures. Sensitivity is important, but it should not be an excuse for complacency. There’s likely to be a number of viable prospective consumers on social media for your brand to engage with. Don’t let a language barrier get in the way.

We've just begun to understand how we can effectively communicate with people who buy products and services. As the world economy becomes increasingly global, we can expect to see greater demand for localized, relevant customer experiences. In turn, it will be more important than ever to have a sound global strategy for engaging with customers. While this is something marketers should always keep in mind, it is an opportunity that should not be missed this holiday season, when consumers across the globe are looking to engage with your brand.

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Dominic Kinnon is CEO of Language Solutions Division at SDL.

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  • by Javier Mon Dec 2, 2013 via blog

    Some great tips, but I completely disagree with your recommendation for Make Language a Priority: machine based translators are quite horrible and do exactly the opposite when you are looking for a engaging conversation. In some cases, it is almost an insult to a non-english speaking customer to say you support their language and receive as response from your support or sales team a machine-translated message.

    Your point regarding culture says it all: just in Latin America there are 10 different local spanish versions and most machine-based translators use 'mexican' as the base for translation, which might be insulting for, let's say, an Argentinian, who might not understand at all what you were trying so say.

    Unfortunately, when it comes to engaging, I don't think we are near an automated solution.

  • by Marie-Luise Groß Wed Dec 4, 2013 via blog

    Thank you for this great article. However, I don't think your suggestion of using machine translation is helpful. Particularly, if brands (companies) want to transform their value proposition "into a locally appropriate context to drive customer acquisition and retention.", as you state above. You wouldn't send a robot to a foreign country to sell your products or services there, would you? You would rather send a human sales expert who knows the language of prospective buyers and finds the right words to sell to them in an appropriate way. (Human) translators are intercultural sales experts.

  • by Caroline Alberoni Wed Dec 4, 2013 via blog

    I completely agree with you, Marie!
    Also, the solution suggested in #1 for the language gap doesn't make sense with the second tip. Machines will never be considerate of the cultural.
    In spite of this, Dominic, the overall idea of the article is indeed very important. Thanks for sharing it! :)

  • by Dominic Kinnon Thu Dec 12, 2013 via blog

    Thanks for all of your comments. I completely agree that automated translation is not a direct replacement for high quality human translation. However, I do believe that it has a place in a company’s multilingual communication strategy. In our current digital economy, the growth in content and communication channels over the last few years has been astronomical. Automated translation provides a solution for translating content that it would not have been cost-effective to translate before – helping to provide a greater level of customer interaction. It also opens up communication channels such as online chat and social sharing, allowing companies to engage with international customers in a way they may not have been able to before. The key is matching the right translation method to the right content type, taking into account customer expectations as well as speed and cost. I would always recommend that content that requires true cultural localization should always be carried out by a well-trained translation professionals.

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