As brands expand globally, the number of ways customers experience your brand dramatically increases. As a result, it’s often challenging to deliver consistent, personalized customer experiences that adapt to your customers’ language and cultural preferences. There are, however, a couple ways international brands can ensure more consistent customer experiences at scale. Here’s how global brands can ensure locally relevant customer experiences while consistently maintaining the most universal and relevant parts of their brand.
MAINTAIN CORE FUNDAMENTALS
Does the Ritz Carlton in Cleveland make their beds like the Ritz in London? Does a McDonald’s in Dubai have the same colors, fonts, and messaging as a Boston franchise? Does the Starbucks in Seattle have the same great tasting coffee as their counterparts in Paris? Customers expect global brands to look, feel, and deliver the same product, service, and experience across all franchises and locations.
Identify these core elements of your customer experience, so you can deliver them time after time in every location. These should be laid out in a brand standards guide, operations handbook, and/or company guidelines, so your franchisees and regional managers can replicate your customer experience across all locations.
Doing business in different countries means you will face different customary practices and languages. In an age of personalization, your global customers will expect your brand to make adjustments in these areas.
First, you’ll need to learn as much as you can about the different cultures. Leverage customer data to understand the different languages spoken and the unique attitudes, habits, and characteristics of the different cultures. From there, follow these three best practices to help tailor these local experiences.
It’s common sense to translate your messaging to English for your U.S. companies, German for your German companies, and French for your French companies. However, it’s important to recognize these are not the only languages spoken in these countries. In fact, creating language barriers can cost you. In the United Kingdom, for example, the Department of Business, Innovation, and Skills found that insufficient language skills and the assumption that “everyone speaks English” cost the nation’s economy £48 billion a year. Research the different demographics in the countries and cities you operate in to ensure your message doesn’t get lost in translation.
Whether it’s where milk is kept in the market, the acceptable time to clear away dishes, or the proper way to greet customers, it’s important to research the cultural differences as your business expands to new markets. Leverage customer data to understand these unique attitudes, habits, and characteristics of these different cultures.
Disney serves as the perfect example of adapting to new cultures. In opening its Tokyo park, Disney redesigned its Splash Mountain log flume ride to ensure guests could enjoy the experience within cultural norms. In California, riders sit single-file, but in Japan, where sitting in close proximity to others isn’t part of the culture, Disney widened the seating, so guests could sit side by side.
It can be challenging to hire the right people to represent your business in foreign countries. Many brands will send expats, which has a failure rate of about 42 percent, according to Harvard Business School. Part of localizing experiences means hiring people who are already familiar with the culture, norms, and laws in that market. This way, they can hit the ground running and better navigate complex business issues that may arise in that country.
EVALUATE YOUR GLOBAL CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
As you build your international brand, you’ll need to ensure consistency and control in every consumer touchpoint at every location. At HS Brands Global, our international mystery shopping services are designed to evaluate and protect your global customer experience. With 12 global offices and a field force over 1 million strong, we provide the local perspective you need to ensure you’re meeting cultural expectations, while our market research teams test practices across the globe to find the best solutions for your company wherever it may be.
Contact HS Brands today to learn more about our international mystery shopping services.
Director of Business Development & Marketing
HS Brands Global
Raymond Esposito has over 28 years of loss prevention experience, working within the department store, specialty, and grocery segments of retail. He has developed loss prevention programs for over 125 retailers in the U.S., Canada, and the United Kingdom. He holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Connecticut and is an expert witness.