Geo-Fitness: How Thinking Globally Builds Stronger Companies
We talk a lot on this blog about how localization and globally-minded platforms can be an asset to any business. But often, companies view global business strategies as an afterthought, something to be added to an already existing framework only once the company needs to expand. Location-specific, or geo-specific, strategies can help a company’s international expansions go smoothly from the start. Recently, I sat down with a Global Growth and International Product expert, Talia Baruch, Founder and CEO of Yewser, to discuss how thinking globally from the get-go can set companies up for success.
What work are you doing now that you are excited about?
Talia: Currently, I spend a lot of my time helping companies figure out their big picture core objectives for their international expansion: key gaps and goals, how we define success, and what it takes to align international priorities across the organization–product, UX, marketing business development, operations, customer support, legal, etc.
With my experience in new market strategy, localization and product geo-fit, I can come in as an external partner and work with key stakeholders to bring alignment across the organization and drive success to the business bottomline. I typically work with the internal owners responsible for international growth, help them evangelize internally, build the business and product plan and orchestrate execution across all the different pieces of the puzzle to drive cross-functional holistic solutions. On the product side, I build the PRD (Product Requirement Doc) Playbook optimizing experience for user journey full cycle in the target international market: discoverability, engagement, conversion to paid, retention, and brand loyalty.
For example, I recently worked with Trello on 1. building their Japan Product Strategy, optimizing on key funnels to maximize new market adoption, and on 2. scaling their global growth (horizontal treatments). When Trello came to me they had already translated/localized their user interface and other content and were seeing some growth, but they needed to reposition their value proposition messaging, optimize non-branded discoverability, enhance onboarding experience to attract high-intent engaged new customers, and adapt to customer expected behavior in Japanese market.
Considering Japan is a mobile-first country, we needed to create a “download the app” call to action campaign as a first touch point, to make sure we onboard new customers in Japan on the native app. If they sign up on mobile web or desktop, they might not show up for the next step. This is an example of how simply translating a US product experience to a target international market is not sufficient (US is not a mobile-first market and does not require a “download the app” CTA on first touch point in onboarding).
What are 2-3 common mistakes that you see companies make when they try to go global?
I see many companies lack the big picture global vision from the outset, which makes it harder for them to scale global services. They first build their platform infrastructure fit for English US ground up, as it is cheaper and faster (eg, concatenated strings, etc), but when they’re ready to expand to international markets, their systems and infrastructure architecture are not multilingual multi-geo supportive. Moreover, if they want to, for example, serve the right pricing page or checkout experience by customer geo, they need to refactor their pricing and payment platforms to enable dynamic generation of these pages by user IP address. The back-end architecture needs to be modular and flexible to enable fast iterations on the front-end. When companies fail to factor in global-ready enablements from the get-go, they accrue heavy tech debt that translates into added cost and time to market.
Another gap I see in many companies is that they develop/design a great new product in the perspective of their familiar domestic market, solving for a local problem, responding to a local expected behavior experience. Then they perceive international growth as having their international customers understand their great product, therefore they translate the interface. While language support is tablestakes baseline, it is not enough for sustainable growth in new markets. It is not just about your international customers understanding your product; it is also about your product understanding your international customers within the ecosystem of their geo-environment. Companies usually get the former, rarely the latter.
What are 1-2 pieces of advice that you can give to a company going global?
My biggest piece of advice would be to remember that “global product strategy” really means “local product strategy, on a global scale.” Different markets are…well…different. What, who and how we optimize for varies, based on cultural and regional factors.
As an example, in Germany customers are more sensitive to trust and transparency, i.e., more concerned with data privacy than US customers, in general. To accommodate for that, about two years ago, pre-dating the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), I AB tested optimization treatments on key funnels for customers in geo = Germany when I headed International Product and Growth at SurveyMonkey. One of the AB test experiments I ran was introducing explicit user data consent boxes before sign-up calls-to-action button in onboarding. This was a counter-intuitive treatment, expected to add friction in new sign-ups, and I would certainly not test it in the US. However, in Germany we saw a 10% incremental lift in quality new sign-ups, with downstream impact on engagement (+24% of these new sign-ups deployed their first survey), and on conversion (+26% of those tested in the funnel converted to new paid customers). Adding cultural and regional factors in product behavior experience can significantly impact success to your business bottom line.
On a related note, it’s important that companies keep a “user first” mindset rather than a “U.S. first” philosophy. US-compliance for customer data privacy protection is far less stringent than in other markets, so if you optimize a product for US market, you risk having to make significant adjustments for international markets.
If you plan to expand your business to international new markets, keep in mind that you are not just building a product for one country, but for different addressable customer segments in diverse regional environments. When you develop your product strategy and experience, keep in mind its global-ready usability, purpose, and delight, and remember you’re not just building for Tommy in San Francisco, but also for Akiko in Tokyo and Rafael in São Paulo.
And my last piece of advice is that global growth is only as good as the retention it generates. New sign-ups are not the sufficient success metric for a product to sustain growth in the global multicultural marketplace. To that end, you’ll want to optimize for the customer holistic full-cycle journey: discoverability, quality new sign-ups (ideally through high-intent attribution channels), engagement on key actions that trigger conversion (when customer appreciates the product value-add), retention (when customer appreciates the value for the long-haul), and brand bond (when customer appreciates the value so much that they evangelize for it).
From the consumer side, the three core questions are always:
- Do I know you? (even through organic non-branded search, when your brand presence is low in my country)
- Can I use you? (your product interface is in my language, but does search work in my country? Relevancy recommendation system?)
- Do I love you? (now that I’ve discovered you and used you, am I going to tell others how great you are?)
Global users are far more likely to use a product tailored to their language and culture than they are to use a visibly translated product. And you can build an emphasis on retention into your success metrics as well, by tracking what turns your users into engaged users.
Keeping localization at the front of your mind when developing and marketing products and planning international expansions pays off in dividends. To find out more about how to get started on a localization project, check out our ebook. We can also help you develop a global brand strategy to make expanding to new markets a breeze. Drop us a line to find out how!
Talia Baruch, Founder, CEO Yewser
Talia is a Silicon Valley International Product and Growth Executive, making products make sense in the global multicultural marketplace. She has 20 years’ experience heading internationalization, localization, international product management, and global growth strategy at Google, LinkedIn, and SurveyMonkey. Prior, Talia lead Starbuck’s brand entry in MENA, and optimized VMware’s product fit in LATAM. In 2017, Talia founded Yewser, helping companies accelerate global growth ground up, adding the culture/country factors in product behaviorism to optimize user journey experience on key funnels, winning local markets adoption on a global scale. Yewser weaves cultural and regional factors in CX, UX and BX to shape customer decision making and lifecycle from discoverability, engagement, conversion, to retention and brand loyalty in new markets. Talia is also an Entrepreneurship Advisor at the Google Accelerator for Applied Machine Learning innovation startups in Emerging Markets, and Co-Founder of GlobalSaké, a non-profit organization, creating a collective cross-border, cross-culture community of industry leaders for knowledge share. Talia is a regular speaker at international conferences (LocWorld in Berlin, Dublin, Silicon Valley, TAUS, Product Tank), teaches the MBA program at Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, and trains Google’s portfolio startups at the Google Accelerator international campuses.