Enabling technology is crucial to international trade success. Connectivity, whether in-person or digital, should be a key element of your global strategy.
As technology comes to the forefront of business success, digitising what you do and how you do it is becoming increasingly important. For example, Skype for business can translate conversations instantly, which means you can communicate the same message internationally in a variety of languages.
Alex Faupel, SMB Customer & Cloud Lead at Microsoft UK SMB, explained how Cloud technology can help businesses connect and engage with customers.
According to Faupel, half of all businesses say they can only be successful if they are responsive to customers’ specific needs. With this in mind, 63 per cent of businesses worldwide are now using Cloud collaboration technologies to respond to customers faster.
Cloud technologies give businesses more capacity to find new opportunities, boost sales and productivity, and engage customers. They can also be used to scale your website to meet demand and ensure a great customer experience during peak times.
Justin Jackson, Founder of Digital Remit, emphasised that thinking differently when it comes to internationalising the online shopping experience could help push one’s business further than competitors’.
Internationalisation, or ‘i18N’ as it is often abbreviated, is used to adapt websites to target a larger audience in more countries. This usually includes language, currency, formats, domain names, contact details, and support hours. Jackson argues that i18N alone is not enough. Marketing your business should not be a one-size-fits-all approach – the important thing is considering the wants and needs of different countries and cultures. Jackson advised that businesses should export their products, not their perspectives.
Citing research from Geert Hofstede, Jackson broke down cultural differences into six dimensions:
1. Power distance
This is how people accept inequality and hierarchy in society. For example, people who consider themselves as an authority figure will be more interested in testimonials on your website from similar figures, and will respond better to personalisation based on their role rather than their name.
2. Uncertainty avoidance
Some countries and cultures want to avoid unpredictability more than others. Jackson shared that in countries like Portugal, users want to know where they are when they’re on a website, so developing a more linear site with a simple user journey and key signposts can make conversion more effective.
This is whether the inhabitants of a country generally regard themselves as an individual or as part of a wider group. The UK is a very individualistic country, whilst Hong Kong, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia are all very group focused. This mind-set can affect various elements, including to which imagery they respond better on your website.
Some societies have more defined gender roles than others and it’s important to consider this to avoid alienating your audience. In countries defined as more ‘masculine’ or assertive, people are less likely to ask for help. They are happy to wander round but don’t want to be guided. Jackson suggests that competitions might engage ‘masculine’ societies, whilst discussion forums could work better in cultures deemed as more ‘feminine’.
5. Long-term orientation
This is about how focused a society is on the present or the future. The UK, for example, is very focused on the present. A focus on educational content could engage those interested in the long term, whilst content that injects some fun is better for those focused on the present.
6. Indulgence vs restraint
This idea looks at how language is used. Indulgent countries enjoy discussion forums, instant chat, and social media, whereas those with restraint prefer more formal content channels such as email.
DHL’s dedicated e-commerce guide offers practical advice for growing your business online, as well as regular blog posts on reaching new markets through online channels.