International marketers face a challenging global environment in 2023. But those who focus on market relevance, authenticity, and connection will come out ahead.

2022 was a challenging year. The cost of living crisis and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine created a turbulent international landscape. Businesses contended with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and rising inflation – and will feel their effects this year and beyond.

The challenge for marketers this year: to drive growth with fewer resources – and with growing competition. 

Consumers want relevant, authentic and engaging content from their favourite brands. The key to hitting global growth goals? Listening to these demands and staying agile amid shifting market conditions. 

Stay ahead of the game with these top trends for 2023.

PLANNING FOR PLATFORM UNCERTAINTY…

Social media platforms can change fast. Sometimes, as with Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover, it’s an overnight transformation. 

Platform shifts and shut-downs are nothing new. In 2021, Baidu enforced the use of Jimuyu for paid ad landing pages, sending marketers scrambling to rebuild their pages on the platform. And in 2022, US lawmakers rallied around a bipartisan bill to ban TikTok in the US.

But how can you plan ahead when digital circumstances are out of your control? Brands should be ready to pivot as platforms evolve. And keep an eye out for emerging channels.

International marketing experts can help. They’ll determine whether a platform is a good fit for your target audiences and your global marketing objectives. 

…AND ECONOMIC UNCERTAINTY

The world is braced for a global recession. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects that inflation will drop in 2023 and 2024. But global growth is expected to slow from 6% in 2021 to 2.3% in 2023

58% of international business leaders say they expect the recession to be mild and short. But between hiring and budget freezes, the pressure is on for most global brands. 

The secret to success in turbulent times? It’s all in your international marketing strategy. 

Even in an economic downturn, marketing localization is key. A holistic approach will help you stand out from competitors and make the most of a limited budget. Focus on strategy, relevance and authenticity over standard translation efforts.

INTEGRATED INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGNS

Are your social, web and paid strategies siloed? In 2023, your international marketing needs to be as integrated as your domestic strategy.

Globally, over 4.6 billion people used social media in 2022. And people use an average of 7.5 social media platforms. Given the number of channels now impacting a user’s journey, social and digital technologies should be considered in harmony. 

Brands need to broaden their approach to engage and resonate with the right audiences. The international customer journey isn’t always a straight line and you need to meet your target audiences on the platforms they use every day. Think about which international channels complement each other to drive engagement and revenue.

AUTHENTICITY IS KEY 

The time people spend online is plateauing. And ad-supported content consumption has dropped. What does this mean for brands? Already fierce competition for your audiences’ attention just got fiercer. 

International consumers are savvy. They’re selective about who gets their digital attention – and their money.  Authenticity and relevance are the keys to standing out in a saturated digital landscape. 

For many brands, this means engaging Gen Z users. They’re the first generation to grow up online and 22% say that a lack of transparency reduces their opinion of a brand or product. It’s a Gen Z world – we’re just living in it.

Political and economic uncertainty are also important to consider. Global strategies must account for what’s going on in each market – what’s appropriate, what’s not. The wrong word or expression, or choosing a sensitive topic, can immediately turn away international users. 

Sustainability can’t be ignored either. Nearly 90% of global consumers are now seeking out more sustainable options. For 56% of UK customers, it’s one of the top drivers when buying a product. 

Brands need to consider their green credentials when it comes to international marketing. Think about how to incorporate them into your strategy to engage your target audiences authentically. 

HOW TO BUILD CONNECTION: CULTURE AND VALUES

It may be tempting to simply translate your domestic marketing for your international markets. But forgetting about the cultural aspect – and how you’ll connect to your customers – is a mistake. 

You need to understand what matters most to your target customers and build connections on their terms. This will help establish your brand as authentic and relevant to your diverse audiences.

Partnering with in-market influencers connects brands to local consumers, through shared interests and values. Using market-specific platforms like Weibo, VKontakte and Xing also helps brands reach consumers in a culturally relevant way. 

Look for new ways to connect with your international audiences. And be sure to partner with local, on-the-ground marketing experts who understand the cultural landscape and emerging opportunities.

STAYING RELEVANT 

Together, authenticity and relevance are key. The more competitive the market, the less forgiving consumers will be of a poor – or simply uninspiring – experience. 

How can you make sure your content is relevant? It comes down to localization quality. To stand out in 2023, global brands need to focus on effectiveness. In other words, how effective is your localized content in meeting your in-market growth goals?

Localize or create content that speaks to the local audience’s culture, behaviour and motivations. We know international consumers use multiple channels and platforms in a single buying decision. So you need to be there at every step of the consumer journey.

Working with in-market experts will also help make sure your multilingual content is on point – and on the right channels.

TARGETING, TRACKING AND PRIVACY

As regulations around user privacy have become more stringent, large platforms, such as META and LinkedIn, are aiming to rely less on in-platform audience data and segmentation.

Instead, they’re encouraging advertisers to integrate their target audiences (via a graph API interface) and use first-party data. This means that brands using first-party data will have a competitive edge, but they’ll also carry the liability around potential privacy issues. 

If you’re relying on UTMs for link tracking and attribution, you may need to change your approach too. Since UTMs are now considered “user data,” certain browsers are limiting their use. So be ready to shift your attribution setup and reporting to compensate.

Globally, data privacy is increasingly important to consumers. In a recent Google study of over 20,000 European consumers, 43% said they’d switch from their preferred brand to a second choice if the latter provided a good privacy experience. 

Consumers view poor privacy experiences as almost as damaging as theft of their data. So it’s extra important that brands provide customers with everything they need to be (and feel) in control of their data.

SHIFTS IN GOOGLE SEARCH AND ANALYTICS

Big changes are coming to the Google platforms that marketers use every day.

First, a not-so-big surprise: mobile-first design will continue to be a major factor in search ranking, as more consumers access sites via their phones. Marketers need to ensure their localized sites load quickly and offer an excellent experience to their in-country audiences. 

But in 2023, Google will weigh organic and paid search rankings more heavily on creative assets and relative alt text. So in-country, in-language keyword research and content creation need to extend not just to copy, but also to creative development. 

Google will be sunsetting its universal analytics platform in June 2023. So marketers need to plan now for the shift to Google Analytics 4. The new platform lends itself more to monetization, attribution, and customized insights for lower-level conversion and ROI data. Meaning it’s likely a shift is on the horizon for reporting as well.

Since it’s the largest search engine in the world, these changes to Google will impact your global marketing strategy overall. But be sure to pay extra attention to your international campaigns and assets, ensuring your creative, alt text and goals are relevant for each market you’re targeting.

FINAL THOUGHT

In 2023, connection is only going to become more important. It’s crucial to have on-the-ground insights to guide your international marketing. They’ll ensure your global content is relevant, timely, and culturally appropriate.

Companies that rely solely on translation to drive international consumer engagement and global growth will fall further behind. No matter the market, content relevance is key to beating your competition and truly driving connection. In 2023, and beyond.

ABOUT Zoe Willis

As a Creative Content Specialist, I make sure your copy is engaging, targeted and insightful. From snappy social media captions to blogs and brand personas, I believe the right blend of words and cultural relevance is key. Getting it right will help you achieve international marketing success.

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