When business professionals travel overseas, there are plenty of new experiences awaiting their arrival. There are new foods to try, new languages to stumble over and cultural differences to be aware of.
For U.S. professionals heading to Russia to conduct business, for example, punctuality to meetings is essential. But when the start time for a meeting has come and gone, don’t be too surprised if the Russian team hasn’t arrived. It’s not uncommon for them to show up several hours late to test the patience of potential business partners.
Because that’s just one of many cultural differences that abound from country to country, it’s recommended to study a nation’s corporate etiquette before trying to do business there. This is true for the individuals who travel to those countries just as it’s true for the businesses launching websites there.
According to an article on Multichannel Merchant, international sales from U.S. online retailers will jump from $11 billion in 2014 to nearly $50 billion by 2020, which will make up 16 percent of the overall U.S. online retail market. To tap into that huge potential, stateside eCommerce businesses can leverage microsites – offshoot sites of their main online store – to sell directly to overseas markets.
When creating microsites for specific emerging markets, it’s important to read up on a specific country’s cultural etiquette. This will prove incredibly helpful when choosing the right imagery and text to include so as to attract and not offend a new customer base.
To get started on the journey into Russia and other emerging nations, here are a few items to make note of when selecting photos and creating product descriptions:
Images: High-quality product shots and photography are key no matter the market. However, something as benign as a photo of someone giving the thumbs-up or OK hand gesture might not be a good idea for websites targeting Latin American countries like Brazil, where those gestures might be considered rude. In China, the OK symbol signifies the number three, meaning that that type of photography could inadvertently confuse website visitors.
Gender roles are another cultural difference to pay strict attention to. In some countries, women do not play the same role in business as men do. Therefore, a photo of a man and a woman shaking hands to indicate a new business partnership might be thought of as far-fetched, distracting from the overall message. Handshakes in general are something to research in advance as they are a common business visual in some countries but not in others.
Language: It goes without saying that a microsite will need to be delivered in the target market’s official language. Most mid-level and enterprise eCommerce platforms include the capability to be translated into dozens of languages. For sites based on IBM WebSphere Commerce, German, Polish, Russian, Romanian, traditional and simplified Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Italian, French, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese and English are all supported whereas additional languages and dialects can be defined to accommodate specific needs.
In terms of product descriptions, it’s always best to be clear and concise. Avoiding phrasal verbs and idioms when dealing with an overseas market is also recommended. Although a producer of honey might be prone to describe their product as the bee’s knees, that type of phrasing could fall on deaf ears overseas. Likewise, if a local idiom is used as a product’s official tag line, it might be useful to track down a new one that will resonate better with the new audience.
Creating the right “sights and sounds” for eCommerce sites will make the transition into emerging markets a much easier one. And by learning more about who the customer is and what their wants and needs entail, more and more cultural nuances will be sure to surface along the way, making it easier to go to market abroad. In the end, however, eCommerce success in any location will be hard to find unless the target demographic is fully understood.