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GLOCALIZATION: Running a Global Site with a Local Feel

Posted on 3.31.2014

:: By David Rekuc, Marketing Director at Ripen eCommerce ::

When a company can reach the far corners of the globe with a single site, it’s easy to think you can do business anywhere.

But reaching international markets is only half the battle — you still have to convince users that you have a product or service they need. To do that, you’ll need to run a global site and give it an authentic, local feel.

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The term glocalization has been sweeping the e-commerce industry lately. Glocalization refers to the application of localizations — the idea of adding elements to a global site to make it feel more native to a particular market. You could, theoretically, build a new site from the ground up every time you enter a new geographic market, but there’s a good deal of waste in doing so and won’t help you achieve success. Focusing instead on key elements that make your site feel local is more efficient and effective.


First and foremost, you have to perfect the language of your desired market. This doesn’t just mean translation — it means presenting your product and message in a way that’s consistent with the culture. In other words, your site needs to speak like a native.

Even though the United States, United Kingdom and Australia all speak English, they each have regional variations in language, as well as lifestyle differences. For example, a vest in the U.S. is a sleeveless zip-up coat, while a U.K. vest is a white tank top or undershirt — not exactly cold-weather gear. Language missteps not only confuse potential customers, but can also injure a brand’s reputation.


Another aspect to consider is the look and feel of a site. Even though there are some universal requirements like a menu bar and locations for content, the way the site is presented can be vastly different. In the west, we respect cleaner Web 2.0 designs, larger images and effective use of white space. Western sites will also use different fonts to convey messaging about the products and services.

But as you move east, these standards are much different. Nations like Japan will lean toward a more text-based design that utilizes bolder colors. Because character fonts are much more difficult to read and can’t use italics or capital letters, they rely on bright imagery for emphasis. The design may seem busy and cluttered to Western companies, but this is not only the norm in Japan, it’s also what’s expected.


Are all of your products and services available in these new markets? Is their function the same? The answers to these questions should change the layout and content of your glocalized site. For instance, electronic devices in Europe are expected to follow European plug standards rather than U.S. plug standards.

Also, consider your positioning in the new market. After you factor in exchange rates and local competition, you may actually be offering a “high-end” product that qualified as “low end” in your home market.

Is your product used in the same way in the foreign market as it is at home? Is it even used at all? With how varied foreign markets can be, sometimes it’s best to re-evaluate your products and services in a given market before you start worrying about how you’re going to get them there.


Do you know how many Rubles a gallon of milk costs? Probably not, which is why it’s important to have your products and services listed in local currency. And when you convert between units, make sure you’re not charging oddball prices like 14.37 EUR. Round off to numbers that are consistent with local sales culture.

Similarly, if you were asked to pay for an e-commerce transaction in the U.S. using a wire transfer, you’d probably leave and seek a more convenient site. In Germany, though, nearly 20 percent of users prefer wire transfers as payment. Make sure you’ve taken local payment preferences into consideration or you’ll lose customers.

IP Detecting and Localizing

Auto-detecting a customer’s IP and redirecting them to the appropriate site can provide a better user experience. But, we’ve all been in situations where we’ve been automatically redirected and can’t get out. Make sure your visitors have a manual override option in case the redirection is more harmful than helpful.


Did you know Google only has 3 percent of the search market share in China? Chinese Internet users primarily rely on Baidu for searching. This means if you want to reach the Chinese market with paid search marketing, you need to adjust your strategy accordingly.

Glocalizing your site removes any potentially foreign or awkward characteristics in your customer’s eyes. Familiarity with lingo, payment and design all put the customer at ease, which in turn makes the experience more pleasant. So when in Rome, sell like a Roman.

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