Any company with a website can be considered a global brand - whether that's what they consider themselves or not.
The Internet all but dissolved geographic borders for business and commerce. And with the rise of mobile devices, customers from all over the world can now find companies outside of the country they live in, with the click of a few buttons in the palm of their hand. Consequently, brands are increasingly doing business beyond their home market.
Standard translation of a company's website, mobile app and other digital content used to be good enough to attract global customers and increase revenues. Today, however, there are a number of evolving trends driving the demand for personalized customer experiences and the need for global content.
1) Exponential Growth of Global B2B and B2C Opportunities
The most significant population growth and increases in purchasing power are occurring in parts of the world where English is either not spoken, or is not the primary language. According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 95 percent of the world's consumers and 80 percent of the world's purchasing power live outside of the U.S. If U.S. companies want to continue growing, they will eventually have to think about reaching global audiences with websites, mobile apps and other digital content that resonate in any language, all cultures and every market. Limiting engagement only to customers who understand English is increasingly a competitive disadvantage.
2) Mobile Explosion
The ability to access applications, services, information and products at any time, anywhere on a mobile device has changed customers' expectations about the companies they do business with. Everyone wants digital services to look great, work fast and be intuitive, easy-to-use and always available. And in emerging markets, consumers are more likely to have a smartphone than a computer. With the global explosion in mobile adoption, it's now critical that a brand's mobile strategy aligns with its global content strategy. A company can create the best content in the world, but if it isn't optimized for the mobile experience, it will automatically be lost on a large percentage of global consumers.
3) Fragmented Content Platforms
As organizations grow, they become more and more siloed. To have an effective global content strategy, the walls between departments - and sometimes even within departments - need to come down. Technology complexity has also created its fair share of headaches, even as it has made the creation and dissemination of content easier.
With content being developed, distributed and analyzed across a variety of platforms, such as Marketo, HubSpot, WordPress.com and Salesforce.com, it is not enough to simply translate a website for a new market. There are ample opportunities in the global content creation process where mistakes can happen. To consistently build and distribute the right content for the right audience, any stakeholder (be it from marketing, sales, product development or IT) and any system that impacts the brand must be coordinated, and translation and localization tools must integrate well with existing and future technology stacks.
4) The Rise of Content Marketing and SEO
Content marketing and SEO are now at the forefront of both brand-projection initiatives and brand-protection efforts. A robust content marketing strategy requires content that is thought-provoking, timely and relevant, available on all platforms and devices, and optimized for the latest search engine requirements. Getting it right means better SEO, which should translate to more interested prospects, and ultimately, to low-cost customer acquisition.
Global brands have the added challenge of ensuring the content they are creating is also translated for each of the markets where they do business, and localized for cultural tastes, preferences and sensitivities. In the past, this has been an arduous, error-prone and time-consuming process. Fortunately, translation management technology has eliminated as much as 90 percent of the manual processes associated with translation and localization, and enables organizations to speed time-to-market of quality content.
5) Customer Obsession
Many customers now view the experience they have with a brand as more important than products or prices offered. They want to be 100 percent confident that the brand they are aligning with truly cares about their needs. For global companies, this means creating native brand experiences that make each customer feel as if content and messages were created specifically for them. Native brand experiences entail communicating in local languages and dialects, considering regional idiosyncrasies, taking into account points of cultural sensitivity, using an appropriate and respectful approach to all communications, and knowing target audiences' customs and traditions.
6) On-Demand Supply Chain
On-demand economies are on the rise. Consumers want access to products and services immediately, and brands that can't deliver will lose valuable business to the competition.
The travel and hospitality industry is a great example of the concept of on-demand economies. Consumers choose destinations on their terms, which makes occupancy somewhat unpredictable, and once their stay is over, there's no guarantee that they'll be back. This unpredictability can make it difficult to plan a content strategy, let alone the global content strategy needed for travel and hospitality brands' multilingual, multinational and multicultural audience. Repeat business and customer loyalty must be cultivated, and companies can do so by remaining agile and allowing the pace of global content creation and distribution to keep up with consumer demand.
Global Content Translates to Global Growth
The above trends are changing the way companies do business and making an iron-clad global content strategy more important than ever. Smart brands understand that engaging global audiences and tapping into seemingly endless international business opportunities now require personalization across all touchpoints and at every stage of the buying cycle. Brands that keep these six trends in mind and adopt a comprehensive global content strategy to reach customers in any language, will be well positioned for success in the global marketplace.
Judd Marcello is the vice president of marketing at Smartling, a New York-based SaaS technology company.