2020 had its share of… downs and more downs. The global pandemic still looming large across the world. Devastating natural disasters. Massive layoffs. (To name just a few.) The ongoing trauma of 2020 has had a significant impact on our society, from both an emotional and economic perspective. And the global business environment is more challenging than ever.

But in 2021, there’s reason for hope. Like a vaccine against COVID-19, a better understanding of how the virus spreads, and new, coordinated leadership in the fight against it. Some countries, such as New Zealand, Taiwan, and South Korea, largely maintained some sense of normalcy throughout the pandemic. And the UK and US have just launched public vaccinations.

Countries must balance public health with economic challenges. So the case for pivoting to marketing localization in order to mitigate business risk becomes clear. Through strategic digital efforts, brands can adapt quickly to evolving market conditions, scaling up or down nimbly as countries’ success in combating COVID-19 shifts. 

Here’s what you need to know to drive global revenue in this fluctuating business environment.

LOCALIZING DURING CHALLENGING TIMES

In economic downturns, localization – like marketing – is often among the first that businesses choose to scale back. But as with marketing, significant cuts to localization can cause detrimental revenue impacts well beyond the short-term savings those cuts might achieve.

According to the Common Sense Advisory, discontinuing language support runs two primary risks. First, that lack of language support may compound revenue loss as customers abandon your brand for a better-localized (or local) competitor. Second, that it may set back global growth significantly, making it harder to gain global revenue in the future.

CSA-diagram-quarterly-revenue-during-pandemic

Source: Common Sense Advisory

GLOBAL CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE MATTERS

It’s important to understand the value of localizing your marketing for your key international audiences. 31% of international consumers are unlikely to purchase products without information in their own language. And even some of the most English-proficient countries in the world (such as Germany) are least likely to purchase without quality localization.

But this doesn’t mean you have to translate everything for every market. Again, it all comes down to understanding what matters most to your audience and localizing your marketing efforts that will drive the most value with the least budget impact.

Investing in strategic marketing localization is particularly crucial during this time of COVID, when we’re seeing massive disparities (and rapid changes) in how successful different countries are combating the virus. US marketers have two key opportunities:

  1. Diversify risk across multiple markets to ensure that, if a key market experiences a sharp drop in sales, they can quickly reallocate focus to other markets to mitigate any revenue loss.
  2. Test new markets to drive immediate revenue and secure a path for future growth.

With widespread disruption to their normal routines, more global consumers are forced to live their lives online. And in countries with a higher degree of economic shock, consumers have developed different shopping behaviors that may be here to stay. With the resultant lower brand loyalty, US marketers have a unique opportunity to reach and convert their key audiences in new and innovative ways.

STARTING 2021 ON A HIGH

Across the world, consumers are grappling with the personal, societal, and economic fallout of COVID-19, as well as local natural disasters and civic unrest. But marketing localization offers brands the ability to contend with local conditions and continue to fuel growth. 

For example, according to a recent McKinsey report, consumers worldwide planned to reduce their spending this holiday season. But in some markets (like China, for example), consumers are reporting increased – rather than decreased – spending.

Digital marketing makes it easier for brands to pivot and capitalize on such changes. They can nimbly reallocate marketing efforts to scale up when opportunities arise and scale down where their budget dollars will be less effective.

Here’s what you need to keep in mind.

1. START SMALL.

If you’re scoping out new markets, focus on those with higher English proficiency and lower barriers to entry. But to get results, you’ll still need to localize the English experience for each market. This includes taking into account local nuance, language, and consumer behavior.

The performance of these efforts will indicate where you should invest in translation and in-language marketing activities. Remember that, even in countries with high English proficiency, consumers prefer to be addressed in their own language. And if competition is high, they will choose a quality localized experience over English-only content.

2. KEEP USER EXPERIENCE AT THE FOREFRONT.

During COVID, global consumers have shifted their spending toward essentials and are more risk-averse. To overcome this, it’s crucial to understand the customer journey, ensuring that you localize each key touchpoint to build trust, deliver an excellent experience, and stand out from in-market competitors.

Before you start, define measurable KPIs and align them with leadership and your team members so everyone has a clear idea of what success means. And don’t worry about localizing everything at first. Just focus on the content and tactics that will get the results you’re after. Targeted content wins out over high volume.

3. UNDERSTAND WHAT’S RESONATING WITH YOUR KEY MARKETS.

Many countries are embracing and redefining the concept of togetherness. “We are in this together.” “Stronger together.” It’s making its way into marketing messaging.

In Mexico, there’s “juntos pero no revueltos,” and in Canada, organizations have used “stronger together, tous ensembles.”

It’s important to understand the local climate of your target markets and localize in a way that resonates with what local consumers are experiencing. Though value is the primary driver for many global consumers right now, purpose and quality are also significant considerations when choosing new brands. Don’t miss the opportunity to tap into this behavioral shift.

DRIVING GLOBAL REVENUE IN 2021

Whether you’re trying to capitalize on 2020 gains or adapt to a more challenging marketing landscape, here’s how to set yourself up for international growth this year.

    • Look at your 2021 budget. Where is there room to test new markets? Are there avenues for expanding your brand to new markets and increasing sales with minimal effort and cost?
    • Define what a “safe” market looks like for your company. What are the key market indicators that you’ll look for before testing with localized marketing programs? What are the indicators that a market may be too risky for significant investment?
    • Make a plan. Come up with a brief for how you’ll mobilize your team to test a new market. Then scale up or down depending on performance.

FINAL THOUGHT

While 2020 was challenging worldwide, there is hope on the horizon in 2021. However, we’re all going to be dealing with the fallout from the pandemic well into this year and beyond.

In most markets, including the US, the business climate is fluctuating rapidly and at times unpredictably. The best bet for brands that want to continue to drive global revenue is to mitigate risk by testing and ramping up digital efforts in key markets to offset losses in others. The key here is to be strategic, localize only the content and tactics most likely to get results, and be ready to pivot as market forces change.

Connecting to your customer in their own language cannot be an afterthought. The longer-term negative impact on companies that pull back on localization efforts is significant. This risk is amplified by changing consumer behavior and increased global competition. But by acting swiftly, and with your customers’ needs front and center, you can further solidify your brand’s global positioning and drive growth in these difficult times.

Want to explore your options for getting a jump on driving global revenue in 2021? Get in touch.