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Chui Chui Tan
Chui Chui Tan 20 September 2018

3 Mistakes Companies Make When Entering Global Markets

Entering new global markets is an exciting time for a company and its employees. From our experience of helping brands, we will share some of the most common mistakes companies make.

Misconception 1: Localising means translating the language

Language translation is the first step in adapting to a foreign market – but it is not the only step. Solely translating the language of a product could suppress business growth and the ability of a brand achieve its full global potential.

When it comes to translation, there are much more to be considered than just changing the language.

Many corporations make the error of only partly converting the language on their websites into the local language. Put yourself in the shoes of the user - if the brand you are trying to engage with has half-heartedly tried to converse with you, would you invest your time and money in the product? Translate language across the entire site or decide if it is better to not do it at all.

Invest time and research into local dialects and the customers you are trying to attract. In most countries, citizens cannot be clumped together in a homogeneous group. On one occasion, we worked with an on-line travel brand with a large market share in Asia. They had spent millions of pounds translating their site into Malay for their Malaysian users and were at a loss as to why they were not seeing results. Malaysia is a very ethnically diverse population made up of Malays, Chinese and Indians where English is widely spoken. Many businesses conduct their work in English, it is frequently used in official correspondence and Malaysian on-line users are accustomed to visiting websites that use English. Without comprehensive research, they had missed a trick and unfortunately, wasted a significant amount of money.

It’s also not just about translating your content into the local language but translating it in the right context. If you have a translation company working with you, make sure they understand your business and the message you want to convey. Avoid solely depending on Google Translate. Let’s be honest, as accurate and helpful as Google Translate can be, it still has its limitations, including its inability to understand context and tense. Considering that your products are going to be the core of your business, you simply can’t afford mistakes.

Misconception 2: Making key decisions solely based on market research

This is another common misconception that companies hold, from SMEs right through to large corporations. One of the big challenges senior executives come to us with is that their products are not hitting the mark and the targeted customer base in a specific market is not growing. On many occasions, this was compounded by the fact that their products or services were launched abroad purely based on general market trends.

Market research data is important and insightful, but it needs to go hand in hand with behavioural elements.

Misconception 3: Using the same business model - one size fits all

It would be an oversight to believe that what works for your home market will transcend across other landscapes. Although business basics will always remain, cultures vary and impact the decisions users make. For this reason, it is more nuanced than just changing the names of products and switching over to the correct currency. The entire ecosystem in which businesses operate needs to be assessed. Look at their traditions and how the overall economy affects the way people behave and their expectations. Have you read up about their legal system? This could influence how much information your users are willing to give on-line. Do you know how the country history could impact your local users’ attitude towards media consumption?

As an example, a few years ago, we undertook some research in Qatar for a luxury hotel brand who wanted to understand how their Middle Eastern clients book their luxury holidays and hotels. We spoke to business people and travellers staying at high end hotels. We noticed that many of them were accompanied by personal assistants. It turned out, many people in that socio-economic group in Qatar relied on their PAs to make bookings, while they sit alongside them to loosely direct the search. The hotel brand fashioned their website experience accordingly.

What does this mean? 

To borrow a phrase, ‘the devil is in the detail’. By ensuring that no shortcuts are taken when undertaking an international project, it makes the transition into a new market smoother.

Over the years, we’ve learned that thorough research, carried out with cultural intelligence and an open mind, yields the greatest results when connecting with users on a global stage. To have a holistic view of a market and its people, it’s important to look further than their language or the market trends. Delve into and understand the relationship between its ecosystem, and their behaviours. This will not only help you shape your product and business strategies, but also enable you to spot opportunities and upcoming trends to stand out in a busy market.

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