In a fully digitalized and interconnected world, global companies tend to overlook the importance of cultural differences and linguistic emotional connotations. As marketing strategies become more and more customer-centered, it is important to return to market research when creating global CX strategies. In this article, we explore some trends in global customer preferences to help improve customer engagement.
Focus on the relationship, not the transactions
The notions of customer experience and the customer journey as marketing tools were a result of understanding that a brand and its customers are in a relationship. This allowed us to bring our attention to a process that — like every relationship — develops over time. Starting with the customer’s first contact with a brand, ideally it becomes an ongoing relationship with the customer’s return to the brand for new purchases. This relationship of course includes exchanges such as the after-sale service, the customer’s online reviews and more. In fact, this process is the result of multiple contacts or exchanges. It is in those exchanges that the customer experience develops and can determine the rest of the relationship.
When we understand marketing efforts as aimed at maintaining a long-term relationship, the focus is radically different from the traditional objective of attracting new customers. But when the goal at hand is to build and maintain a relationship with a global audience — in short, creating a global CX strategy — the process can be more complex than with a domestic target audience. Luckily, we can resort to research results that are already available and learn from the experts.
For the last decade, cross cultural research has revealed that, when interacting with a brand, customers prefer to do it in their first language. This applies to interactions with multinational companies and it has been the major reason why international businesses invest heavily on local customer service centers and translation. Surprisingly, little has changed in this decade or even after COVID-19 lockdowns and the boom of online connectivity. A recent study by CSA Research shows that “local-language support creates stickier customer relationships,” which means that customers are more likely to purchase the same brand if they receive customer service in their own language.
Consider the local competitors
Local competitors in remote markets have an important advantage over the international brand: using the same language as the customers. Researchers have known for a long time that language has emotional connotations for consumers that go beyond mere information exchange. This was the result of a 2011 study and it keeps proving true nowadays.
In their “Can’t Read, Won’t Buy” series of publications, CSA Research explain that, when given a choice, a majority of consumers will opt to buy products with information in their native language. This refers to information such as ingredients, origin and use instructions, but also to the general communication channels of a specific brand. This preference is also present among those with a good understanding of English. The report also states that 39% of all survey respondents were more inclined to buy products from a website in their first language. This percentage went up to 67% among LEP (limited English proficiency) participants. In short, we must not underestimate the strength of the local competition when it comes to customer engagement and retention.
The advice CSA Research provides for global marketers is to consider the importance of “engaging their global audience with content that resonates with them — not just with translated content, but with a full language experience that conveys their brand, reputation, and trustworthiness.” This effectively means creating a fully localized CX, as opposed to adapting the one from the brand’s home country. Because through localization your CX will become culturally relevant to the specific markets, your brand will be able to leverage the same emotional connotation as your local competitors.
Make data-driven decisions
The one essential ingredient in a recipe for great CX is good quality data. Building a lasting customer relationship in which the content is localized to their cultural context would be impossible without the use of data. Brands need to understand their clients, not just in their language preferences, but with regards to their age group, their purchase history and interests. The CX game belongs to brands who can truly make use of their data to personalize their experiences to ever-increasing customer expectations.
In this digitalized world, a simple CRM (customer relationship manager) platform can give your company all the information you need to create effective CX strategies. These strategies will of course need to be oriented towards establishing relationships, but those are only possible when we have the right data.
The ethical use of data is however key, as the main pillar of customer engagement is trust. In this regard, understanding cultural differences when deciding how to approach your customers is a most important dimension of CX. There are cultures, for example, where customers value their privacy to higher levels than others, and we must be very careful not to create an impression of having too much data. Again, partnering with a localization expert team can help your company integrate your customer predictive analytics with a cultural understanding of how to best engage with your global markets.
Although it may be surprising, in this increasingly virtual time and age, customers still expect to have relevant relationships with the brands they purchase. This involves meaningful, personalized and relevant exchanges, customer service and product information in their language, and a fully local experience that is powered by an appropriate use of data.