The decade of 2020 for commerce will be remembered as a redefinition of the way people engaged with brands and businesses in a context of increased mediatization, higher customer standards, and a generalized need to feel understood and cared for.
What has changed
Google’s announcement about the disappearance of third-party cookies, expected to take place in 2022, brings forward a crucial challenge for B2C businesses: in an era of globally scaled markets and hyper-connectedness, where diversity has become the norm, businesses rely on increasingly specific data to survive. As brands veer toward the online world, and e-commerce continues to evolve and consolidate in this new normal, those who better adapt to local uses and expressions will undoubtedly come out on top.
With many outlets of consumer packaged goods (CPG) getting hit hard by the pandemic, marketers are exploring new ways to increase engagement and product value. Tactics include investing in e-commerce and direct-to-consumer (DTC) platforms, smarter use of data and analytics in product innovation and supply chain focus on digital and social marketing, and greater accountability for media spending.
Large global brands are already deploying strategies around the acquisition of advertising targeting tools to engage their customers and their new consumer habits are driven by COVID-19. Yum Brands, owner of KFC, Taco Bell, and Pizza Hut, is an example of how global brands are approaching these rapidly changing scenarios: in less than 3 months, it acquired a Texas-based Artificial Intelligence performance marketing company called Kvantum, and then went on to acquire Australian-based Dragontail Systems, in a move toward accelerating its data collection strategy.
“With Dragontail, we expect to tap into the power of A.I. to accelerate and further enhance our delivery technology capabilities, especially at Pizza Hut, and optimize the end-to-end food preparation process,” stated Yum CFO Chris Turner.
Walmart, on its part, acquired the technology and intellectual property behind Thunder, an ad-tech solution focused on creative automation. And Nike shortly thereafter acquired the Datalogue data integration platform to scale its data-driven processes.
In a future where companies like Yum, Walmart, and Nike will spend more resources on large-scale marketing, there is still a lot of work to be done to cover the last mile. Data can drive marketing, but it is still a long way away from driving sales. For every resource invested in finding and reaching these customers worldwide, it is expected that an equivalent amount of effort will have to go towards the localization of these brands’ messaging in different languages and cultures.
The evolution of e-commerce post-pandemic
What the pandemic is beginning to leave behind its trail is a form of consumption that is very heterogeneous, and it puts companies in a position where they need to rethink the way they will leverage their customers’ data. Market leaders are already implementing strategies that enable them to identify who and where consumers are, and the rest will follow suit. The quest for a more personalized shopping experience is becoming the defining feature of these times.
E-commerce, because it is based on dehumanized transactions, requires a lot of work to achieve levels of trust with end consumers. But trust is not the same in all cultures and societies. The figures speak for themselves: an online buyer is three times more willing to buy on a website in their own language. It is very important to conduct a good and thorough analysis to understand the deep relationship between market share and continuous improvement of translations.
From a commercial standpoint, each culture presents different relevant aspects to be considered for the development of approaches that make a better understanding possible between companies, partners, and customers. The same rules apply to online businesses: localized customer service is essential.
In search of human interaction
In the post-pandemic world, people have a renewed yearning for human interaction. Before, e-commerce was one degree of separation further from its in-person counterpart. Now, in-person shopping has an added degree of risk, which levels the playing field. Linguistics is e-commerce’s best bet to leverage that need for human interaction and personalized attention.
The relationship between trust, language, and customer conversion provides us with valuable insight to generate new strategies where multi-country and multi-language online stores are combined with effective domain tactics.
Digital, secure and personalized
From now on, companies will be facing a consumer who wants to be at the center of the shopping experience and who wants to feel comfortable when buying online. These customers don’t want to do any extra hard work, but the other way around: brands will have to cater to them in their own language, on their own terms. And they will have to create a setting that makes these customers feel safe and taken care of.
While recovering from a global health crisis, marketers must reimagine customer relations in a new light, with new rules and yes, in a new language. Culture is not a homogeneous thing, but a local expression of customs and beliefs, and it is a serious challenge for companies to adapt their growth strategies and align them to cultural specificities if they want to penetrate these local markets.
Marketing messages can no longer be a direct translation from the original, but should rather be designed for different categories of buyers specifically, considering every nuance. Speak your customers’ language or prepare to be ignored.