International marketers will face a challenging global environment in 2023. But those who focus on market relevance, authenticity, and connection will come out ahead.
With economic uncertainty stemming from inflation, skyrocketing cost of living, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and continuing fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, 2023 is going to be a year where international marketers will need to drive growth with fewer resources – and in the face of growing competition.
But by meeting global consumers’ demand for relevant, authentic, and engaging content (and being ready to pivot based on shifting market conditions), savvy marketers can hit their global growth goals, even under difficult circumstances.
Here are the top international marketing trends you need to know for 2023.
PLANNING FOR PLATFORM UNCERTAINTY
This isn’t the first time global marketers have found themselves in the lurch from digital circumstances out of their control.
In 2020, India banned TikTok after a border dispute with China. 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 are rallying around a bipartisan bill to ban TikTok in the US.
So, whether it’s a billionaire taking over a beloved social network, platform restrictions, or a country opting out of a social platform, marketers need to be ready to pivot as the global digital media landscape continues to evolve. Keep an eye out for emerging platforms. But be sure to consult international marketing experts to ensure any platform you consider is a good fit for both your in-market audience and your international brand marketing objectives.
PLANNING FOR ECONOMIC UNCERTAINTY
While the International Monetary Fund projects that inflation will drop in 2023 and 2024, global growth is expected to slow from 6% in 2021 to 2.3% in 2023. And global marketers will continue to feel the ramifications.
With continued mass layoffs (or simply not rehiring for positions after someone moves on), as well as budget freezes, international marketers will be under even more pressure to deliver revenue with fewer resources in 2023.
During a global economic downturn, international marketing will be key to driving growth, no matter the economic circumstances in the US. But success will take more than just translation. To stand out from the competition (and make the most of limited budget), marketers will need to focus on strategy, relevance, and authenticity over broadscale translation efforts.
INTEGRATED (NOT SILOED) INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGNS
Globally, online audiences now use an average of 7.5 social media platforms. Social media and digital technology are ubiquitous. With so many channels impacting the user journey, companies need to broaden their approach to international digital to get in front of their audiences on multiple platforms and channels.
Most marketers think holistically when it comes to their US efforts. But in international marketing, they’re more likely to approach digital efforts in a siloed way.
As with domestic audiences, success in an international market means meeting your audience on the channels they use every day. And the international customer journey isn’t always a straight line. (Like eCommerce in South Korea, where consumers use social, search, blogs, websites, and third-party sites to make a single purchase.)
Global marketers will need to consider their channel mix and which international channels complement each other to drive engagement and revenue.
IMPORTANCE OF MARKETING LOCALIZATION, AUTHENTICITY, & RELEVANCE
As international consumers become ever more selective about who they’ll give their digital attention to, competition for their time – and their money – becomes more intense, too. For international marketers, relevance and authenticity are key to standing out in an increasingly saturated digital landscape.
Political and economic uncertainty are fueling social unrest. Global marketing strategies must account for what’s going on in each market – what’s appropriate, what’s not. Using the wrong word, choosing a sensitive topic, or using a wrong expression can immediately turn away global users.
How can marketers make headway in their key markets?
Build trust & connection with brand values.
Brands often “lack connectivity to culture, community, or their consumers.” This is compounded in international marketing, where brands are often tempted to simply translate their US domestic marketing. (And forget about the cultural aspect altogether.)
It’s crucial that brands understand what matters most to their in-market audiences and build connection on their terms. Partnering with in-market influencers can help connect brands to local consumers based on shared interests and values. Market-specific platforms (like Naver Webtoons in South Korea) help brands reach consumers in a culturally relevant way. All while overcoming psychological resistance to advertising and positively influencing consumer attitudes toward those brands.
Look for new ways to connect with your international audiences. And be sure to partner with local, on-the-ground marketing experts to understand the cultural landscape and emerging opportunities.
Focus on localization quality, relevance, and authenticity.
Localization quality is a top concern for many global marketers. But when it comes down to it, what does quality really mean? To stand out in 2023, global brands need to focus on localization effectiveness. In other words, how effective is your localized content in meeting your in-market growth goals?
Relevance and authenticity are key. The more competitive the market, the less forgiving consumers will be of a poor – or simply uninspiring – experience. Focus on localizing (or creating) content that speaks specifically to the local audience’s culture, behavior, and motivations. And work with local experts to ensure your multilingual content is on point, no matter the channel or platform.
As mentioned before, international consumers use multiple channels and platforms to make a single buying decision. Understand the consumer journey in each of your international markets, and ensure that you’re there every step of the way – with relevant, authentic content that’s appropriate for both the channel and the local culture.
BIG SHIFTS IN GOOGLE SEARCH & ANALYTICS
Big changes are coming to the Google platforms that both US and global marketers use every day.
First, a not-so-big surprise: mobile-first design continues 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 moving forward. So in-country, in-language keyword research and content development need to extend not just to copy, but also to creative development.
Google will also 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 buttoned up for each market you’re targeting.
TARGETING, TRACKING, & PRIVACY
As regulations around user privacy have become more stringent, large platforms are pushing to reduce reliance on in-platform audience data and segmentation. Instead, platforms like META and LinkedIn are encouraging advertisers to integrate their target audiences (via a graph API interface) to utilize advertisers’ first-party data. And thus, release liability around potential privacy issues to advertisers.
If you’re relying on UTMs for link tracking and attribution, you may need to change your approach. Since UTMs are now being 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. And they 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.
FINAL THOUGHT ON 2023 INTERNATIONAL MARKETING TRENDS
In 2023, connection is only going to become more important. It will be crucial for you to have on-the-ground insights to guide your international marketing and ensure your global content is relevant, timely, and culturally appropriate. Companies who 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 and engagement. In 2023, and beyond.