The international brand E-commerce experiences localization research report

Consumer X,2016-05-19

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April 8th, ASOS has pulled the plug on its Chinese operations after admitting it would have been too expensive to grow the business. The International brands are aggressively entering the Chinese e-commerce market, but also taking a big risk. Do they really understand Chinese market and users? Localization might be their first class. 

Localization is not just translation

In 2015, L’Oreal’s sales in China are 14.96 billion, with the growth of more than 4.6%, among that, e-commerce sales growth is 60%. The international brands from different industries like Zara, Burberry, IHG, City Bank have all established their e- commerce platform in China, which means China have become the “blue ocean” for many international companies.

Taobao has changed the e-commerce landscape in China, besides that, the culture and environment is very special. Only translating the foreign website obviously can not meet the needs of Chinese customers. How to truly localize the brand experiences to differentiate from competitors has been an urgent problem for international brands.

Layouts comparison between IHG English website & IHG Chinese website

The challenge of localization

The international companies are facing the different issues of localization. From Tang’s experience and perspective, there are three levels of the issues.

Break the Dilemma of Localization

The traditional approach from many foreign brands is doing “ international design and local user testing”, however, by modifying single problems through the test won’t increase the whole experience of the entire e-commerce. If you want to break the dilemma of localization, there are three ways for taking action:

The Balance of Globalization and Localization

The localization of e-commerce of international brands is indeed a process of balancing. Globalization and localization are both good ways to win customers. From Tang’s perspective, there are four dimensions to balance globalization and localization.

Most Chinese branch offices already have had rich experiences and deep understanding of the local market and users; however, the headquarters still look at Chinese market from a more global perspective based on second-hand market data.

Firstly, the “localization” of target users is something international brands should be aware of. The profile of local users are often slightly off from the headquarters perspective. Understanding the difference is the premise of the whole localization. Besides that, the localization of the brand itself also should be considered, For instance, the Chinese luxury brand users are always pursuing international fashion and style. However, when coming to daily necessaries , they expect convenience and comfort. When we design for local markets, the different needs should be considered as well as the Chinese customers’ interaction behavior and visual preference. At the same time, the investment in maintenance, human resources, data system change, IT development is also a key factor from business point of view. 

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