Type this one magical word into a search engine, and ‘automagically’ the results one needs—reviews, location, contact info, order options—are delivered in nanoseconds. This experience has become the norm for how browsers ingest information and find what they are looking for—a seamless match of synchronized data with tracking and cognitive thinking. This same experience should be the goal of any website as technology gets better and people are sharing so much personal data with brands by simply moving around in the world with their smartphones.
Search engine providers have set the standard by fully understanding the importance of delivering content that is personalized based on location and click history. Still, the experience a searcher gets when visiting a website from the search engine results page (SERP), or other referring channels, leaves a lot to be desired. Imagine the disappointment a busy (and hungry) consumer feels when the SERP experience reflects what companies know about her (history, intent, location), and the consumer then visits a website where she finds she must start over from scratch.
Companies that get it right, like Pizza Hut, automatically present local deals among other localization features.
As the saying goes, location is everything, but organizations are missing one of the most critical elements of personalization. Brands must understand why personalized information is important by putting it into context to create a better user experience.
Why is it important that I am searching from a New York location? Does this mean I have more or fewer options? Does this mean I have a special local offer of which I should take advantage?
Digital properties must not only gather information about people but also use it to help consumers meet their goals in a contextual and timely manner. With changes such as the GDPR going into effect, the onus is on brands to deliver a connected experience that will leave customers feeling as though brands’ use of their data is justified.
Here are four strategies brands must implement to succeed at personalization and localization in an increasingly borderless and privacy-aware society.
A Strategic Presence
Rather than blindly translating experiences—from content to checkout—marketers and merchandizers need to identify their target markets. Though shoppers might come from all regions, those who should be catered to from a budget standpoint alone are those frequently coming to the site. Organizations should take the time required to track and identify the major regions where consumers are browsing and purchasing from. From there, brands can identify what specific local factors might be leading to a drop-off from visit to conversion to determine if it is the experience that is preventing the sale.
Could it be local restrictions, spotty Internet access, etc., that causes your users to leave? Is it something as simple as that they cannot find a local customer service number to call?
A Confident Air
A lot can go wrong when it comes to an ‘outsider’ making educated guesses about what a culture will respond to. While focus groups can help brands do initial research to excite shoppers versus insult them, what works best is feet on the ground with insight into that area. Companies that are not big enough to set up or source local help can hire a local research firm or agency to identify what will or will not work in the market. Testing is another option but poses a risk when not done hyperlocally. An A/B test of two company taglines, for instance, can help brands make incremental changes. Messages change from language to language, a truth that can produce embarrassing errors such as when an international airline’s slogan of “Fly in Leather” translated into Spanish as “Fly Naked,” one of a number of epic intercultural brand fails.
There are three primary reasons people shop online: convenience, price, and selection. As brands start to move into new markets, some of these elements get sacrificed. For example, shipping can become more expensive and drawn out; price can fluctuate by currency worth; and selection can be limited by local rules or miss the mark due to regional preferences.
Marketers and merchandizers need to pay special attention to experience through such tactics as remembering visitors when they come back, providing quick checkout (when possible), populating shipping rates via geolocation, personalizing the experience to where customers are located, tailoring imagery to customers, and offering a local phone number to call. These personalized offerings can make up for elements a business cannot control because of geography.
Saving Clicks for Better Conversions
Understanding the needs of a local market goes beyond ‘window-dressing’ personalization such as showing a local image on a homepage and nothing else. Localization must be functional. By showing the local theater, for example, the company saves a potential customer a couple clicks, which translates to a positive experience in every culture. So, as brands mine for customer data, it is important to consider how to efficiently use it to help website visitors buy in a way that makes sense to them. It’s functional localization—with all the toppings.
Jeff Cheal is the Director of Product Strategy for Personalization, Campaign & Analytics at Episerver. He serves the North American market as an ambassador for the Episerver product suite, staying connected with both the partner network and customer base.