“Think Global, Act Local” is a concept that has existed for over 100 years. Very few organisations excel at this challenge. Every couple of months I find myself discussing with a client: “As a marketing technologist, how do I create the perfect local customer experience in a global context?”
You might be a global brand with data streaming in from all over the world, or you might be a strong single brand with a global customer reach, the problem is how do we make our customers feel like our message is crafted individually for that customer in their local context? This is the heart of customer centricity.
For multinational organizations, enterprise customer engagement platforms need to meet the requirements of multiple brands and multiple regions. Consider, for example, the sheer scale and complexity of some multinational retail groups, automotive manufacturers and global pharmas that have operations, marketing, IT and data teams all over the world. While there are many benefits of an enterprise-wide approach, when it comes to implementation, the “devil is in the detail.” Some key areas for consideration are:
- The balancing of global versus local needs (i.e. a “one size fits all” approach versus an approach that allows for more regional differences – and everything in between)
- Privacy and regulatory factors
- Cultural and data differences
We will explore some of these further and look at some key areas to consider in the implementation of an enterprise-wide platform of this nature. Customer experience is a is key factor, because regardless of the complexity that multinational organizations face, customers will not tolerate customer experience failures. Consider a PwC study on the future of customer engagement, where 32 percent of all global customers surveyed said that they will stop doing business with a company after one poor customer experience.
In general, organizations with a multi-region, multi-brand scope tend to have quite complex solutions. This makes it especially important to identify the use cases that need to be satisfied at both global and regional levels. The scale and maturity of operations in various regions may also affect the focus in different geographies and necessitate a phased implementation approach.
Different Regions, Different Data
From a data standpoint, having to account for customers on a global scale presents its own set of challenges. Global differences to consider include not only different currencies, time zones, languages and dialects but many small and large cultural differences that can vary country to country even in the same geographic region. Date formats (8-15-21 vs. 15-8-21), name and/or address formats (Sr. vs. Señor, family name listed last or first) and channel preference (email in EU, mobile in Africa) are among the key identifiers that vary by region. These factors make it important to work with a provider that can cleanse and verify “multi-country” data and leverage available postal address data as needed for all geos.
Other data considerations include:
- Matching: Working with a provider that can build an accurate view of each customer even when the data is coming from many different sources that can vary enormously from brand to brand and region to region.
- Character Sets: The need for a double byte Unicode capable solution stack that can cater for varying Western and non-Western character sets.
- Data Model: Preferable to work with a provider that can hold all the data that is needed over time (rather than one with a fixed data model). Additional flexibility will stem from a common data model with an allowance for some regional variations.
- Types/Volume of Data: Some regions may have large volumes of anonymous data vs. other regions that have far larger volumes of first-party data.
Considering the platform itself and hosting location(s), it is vital to understand the needs of different regions in line with regulatory and privacy legislation.
Global organizations must of course account for GDPR and CCPA, as well as other regulations on the horizon, such as Brazil’s Lei Geral de Protecão de Dados (LGPD) and China’s Personal Information Protection Law (PIPL). An organization with operations in neighboring countries, and with customers who transact in both must account for a wider range of options, including different rules governing consent such as the right to be forgotten, opt-in and opt-out preferences, right of access and others.
Turning our attention to communications, just as with the potential for vastly different formatting, there are cultural regional differences that must be accounted for when engaging with a diverse global audience.
- Channel Preference: Understanding one channel’s importance vs. another based on region may help the business prioritise the phasing in of different channels.
- Marketing focus: Marketing teams will likely prioritise their communications strategies differently in different geos depending on variables such as how established a customer base is. Acquisition may take precedence in one region vs. retention or driving a loyalty program in another.
- Language: An obvious point to get right, but important to understand also that language and dialects may often differ within a single country. With a customer base in Canada, for instance, it would be important to know whether a Quebec resident speaks French or English.
- Time Zone Differences: Timing of communication is critical – get it wrong and open rates will drop and your customer will miss your message
- Cultural Differences: A deep understanding of regional cultural differences should be reflected in how an organization drives different copy variants such as tone of voice, imagery and addressing.
Data Quality: A Global Undertaking
Comprehensive data quality underpins all the issues that multinational organizations must contend with to “Think Global, Act Local.” Because not all customer engagement platforms treat data quality the same, it is important that global organizations or any large enterprise operating internationally consider only enterprise-grade customer data platforms (CDPs) that embrace the data challenge. This will entail providing data cleansing, matching, de-duplication and governance within milliseconds of data ingestion, preparing it for use and making it instantly accessible in the form of a golden record.
A golden record includes everything there is to know about a customer, combining all proxy identities – known and unknown – with a robust long-tail of transactional information, preferences and behaviors. Because a golden record is updated in real time, as data is being ingested while a customer moves through a customer journey, a brand is able to provide contextually relevant personalised engagements in the cadence of the customer, on any channel, throughout an ongoing customer journey.
One Chance to do Right for the Customer
So what does it look like when you get “Think Global, Act Local” right? Relevance will account for all the regional differences mentioned here. Customers expect that any organization they do business with takes the time and effort to learn everything there is to know about them, which would of course include language, channel preference, culture and other variances.
In a Harris Poll survey commissioned by Redpoint, 63 percent of customers surveyed said that a personalized experience is now a standard expectation, with 43 percent defining such an experience as a brand knowing they are the same customer across all touchpoints – email, social, online, mobile, in-store, call center, etc.
While a poor customer experience may not be intentional, it reflects poorly on an organization that does not give data quality the attention it deserves to account for local or regional differences. Great customer experiences are where the customer feels like they are understood by the brand in that local moment of interaction – we all know that the best examples of this are underpinned by great data quality, and insightful personalization of that interaction. Global organisations that lead their markets deliver that local experience at a global scale.