Podcast: The Culture of Conversion with Joe Doveton

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In this episode of Landing Page Optimization, SiteTuners CEO Tim Ash and GlobalMaxer client services head Joe Doveton look at the implications of different cultures on conversion. 

English as the Global Business Lingua Franca  

Tim and Joe discuss how English being the dominant language has affected the web, and how some of the conventions of the language have trickled down even to cultures that do not use English as the primary medium. In China, for instance, web content is presented the same way as Latin script- left to right, even if traditional Chinese writing is top to bottom.

Joe notes that even for the holdouts like France, where they come up with some technical terms as new ones get developed, a lot of acronyms like CRM (customer relationship management) survive intact. So although they’re very proud and protective of their language, it’s not exclusive to the case that they won’t use English; about 55% of French people speak English.

Even with English, though, cultural differences play a vital role. An example is shipping: in the US, this is commonly understood as delivery, although in the UK it’s not as widespread a concept given that they are an island and everything travels by train.

As far as localization, though, English being the universal language, most global web sites will have at least some communication in English. This is true even if there’s an appetite for content in the local language in parallel.

Influence of Technology Adoption on Web Experience

Tim discusses the impact of some “laggard” economies, because they have skipped the landline phone stage and went directly to mobile. He and Joe talks through the importance of understanding the infrastructure of the country in which you operate. For instance, IE 6 (Internet Explorer 6) may be all but dead in the US and some European countries, but in China, it has a 25% market share, and IE 8 has a 22% market share. You can’t assume that the technology your developers are building is what the customers are using on the ground.

A variation of this is occurring in South Africa, where they skipped 3G internet, and internet adoption is driven by smartphone use. For countries like Kenya and Nigeria, web owners will have to think about whether responsive design or a localized experience better serves the market.

Tim and Joe go through how, even with smartphones, usage is vastly different. Apple device owners tend to have 90% of the online purchases, even though that’s not their market share. And in countries where there’s an emerging middle class like India, Russia, and Brazil, the smartphone is an aspirational item, a status symbol for those who can afford it.

Beyond devices, there’s also common local behavior. For a society like Germany, for instance, they are highly democratic. There’s little difference in gender roles, people are more private, and they are very strongly credit averse, so if you’re setting up an e-commerce store, you have to note that credit card penetration is only about 20%, and you need to adapt. In global e-commerce, localization especially at the checkout is crucial.

Meaning of Colors in Different Cultures

On top of the technological nuances, Tim and Joe also cover how things like color mean different things in different parts of the globe. The traditional dress up color in Russia is red, but in other cultures, red signifies things to avoid.

Joe notes that it comes down to the circumstance of what you’re selling. There are trends in the heuristics of colors: red in China means good luck, while in the West, it has associations of a kind of action. Green has some notion of criminality in France, death in some parts of South America, and mourning in some parts of the Middle East.

There was survey conducted that revealed that the colors that are consistently popular with concepts like trust, security, and high quality are silver, white, black. 

Conversion can be a colorful, culturally sensitive activity.

First Air Date: October 28, 2013

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