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User Interaction: When your Product doesn’t act like a Tourist

We’ve all been there. Traveling to a new land, wishing we didn’t have TOURIST labeled all over our foreign forehead. Wishing we not only spoke the native tongue, but much more: fit in as a local. Tuned to the native attitude, pace, habits. Plugged-in to the inside info on the real local treasures: where to go, what to do, how to connect to fully maximize our experiences and grow.

-So do our Products.

Like a Person, a Product knows that on its journey from the nesting domestic home to the big wide world outside, it needs to do more than speak the local language. If it wants to make an impact in the new market, to grow its reach, to thrive, our Product needs to act like a local. That means adapt its performance and optimize its fit to the way of the land.

I learned about adaptation across culture codes and market wants as a kid at Yewsdene, the Home my grandparents built after WWII in Radnage, backcountry of Buckinghamshire, England. Yewsdene was named after an old Yew tree rooted in its backyard, a symbol of cross-continental evergreen growth. This home was a mecca for a multitude of cultures and nations, coming through from faraway travels, exchanging ideas, sharing stories. And as an Israeli kid, already a baked blend of East-meets-West, visiting my grandparents overseas every summer was when I realized that the differences between people across borders ran deeper than a language barrier. Culture, norm, values, perspective, expected behavior, eco-system, collective consciousness—everything was different.

To fit in with the local kids in Radnage, I had to quickly adopt the local dialect and adapt to the local customs--slipping into a pair of Wellington boots and galloping over haystacks, neighing in the open sheep-grazed fields; or strapping on my Pony stirrups for a cross-country jump-show (only to gracefully land smack in the mud shortly after). It is at Yewsdene where I learned to pace myself to the local pulse, to open my prism to the local perspectives, to click with the local environment.

Translate that to a product fit in a new market--a good example is Chitu. At LinkedIn, UI localization into Chinese was table stakes, but not enough to win local market penetration. What drove the significant impact lift for our China new market growth was our all-in geo-fit approach with the launch of a light-weight off-stack quick-to-iterate native mobile app (fit for a mobile-first geo), 100% made in China, tied to the local eco-system--entry point integrations with WeChat, Tencent QQ, Sina Weibo--and positioned for market relevance, with a single value-prop that met the local need for our target addressable cohort in China: helping young professionals land their entry-level job.

So what does your product need to do, beyond language support, to grow in new markets?

First, it needs to be discovered (drive new customer acquisition): Optimize top-of-funnel flows, like domain treatments and SEO/SEM/Social Media strategy to maximize traffic and ranking from local search engines. More than 90% of customer journeys begin with search, and SEO-generated visits achieve higher conversion rates than other digital lead sources. But search strategy varies by geo. For example, Yahoo has about 30% search share in Japan, but only 3% search share worldwide. Google, despite its 83% global search share, is rarely used for search in South Korea; Naver sweeps the local search dominance, >70%. (Many Korean webmasters block Google and other global search engines from accessing their sites, for security reasons.) In China, Baidu outdid Google on optimized returned search results for queries in native Pinyin and Chinese characters. Likewise, your product also needs to establish strategic partnerships, APIs and entry points from local prominent platforms that have already established market penetration and user trust.

Second, it needs to be relevant (drive engagement and conversion): Add value and a competitive edge in the local marketplace, answer to a local need, offer native (vs translated) content, show local customer testimonials, build a geo-relevant onboarding experience, including geo-fit welcome email series, marketing promos, splash banners, geo-custom pricing models, and payment methods.

In mobile-first geos (eg, Japan, Korea, China, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, UAE), mobile-banking payment methods--like AliPay, UnionPay, WeChat Pay--are the name of the game. You’d want to display their logo on your digital storefront in the relevant market for local adoption. 2 Billion adults worldwide are “unbanked” (i.e., don’t have a physical bank account and rely on mobile payments). "Konbini Kessai," which literally means "Convenience Store Payment," is a prevalent payment method in Japan, and COD (cash on delivery) is still prevalent across Asia. These payment methods are a sharp shift from the core English markets (US, CA, AU, UK), where credit card payments are >95% dominant.

Third, it needs to be trusted and loved (drive retention): Brand awareness is easier to obtain than brand loyalty, especially in a new market entry. To establish trust and brand bond, your product will want to offer UX delight (native look and feel, with both local copy and creative treatments), effective functionality in-country: eg, site speed latency, search functionality, data standardization for native autofill and typeahead, local legal compliance, like GDPR (Global Data Protection Regulation) kicking-in in the EU in May 2018, etc. Your product will also want to have the right trust seals (eg, TrustedShops compliant in DACH countries), and it will want to adjust to the local behaviorism to maximize user action triggers.

Dan Ariely and Nir Eyal, industry experts in product behaviorism, share the human psychological hooks that make us take the action designed for the feature. We build personalization mechanisms and recommendation systems to match the right product experience to the right user by user-type factors. I’d add the geo-factor to the relevancy logic configuration, as the geo consideration, in many cases, defines the user expected behavior for action triggers.

“Your product expected behavior varies by geo, as does your coffee.”

Product expected behavior is not one-size-fits-all for global. In fact, it is sometimes the opposite in another country. For example, in the US, adding explicit user data consent checkboxes right before “Sign Up” CTA adds friction to the onboarding flow and significantly hurts sign up rate. However, in Germany, where consumers are more sensitive to data privacy, trust, and transparency, allowing user control with this treatment not only increases sign up rate, but also drives engaged new signups and impacts lift in downstream conversion/retention rates. In Japan, a guided explicit product experience is the expected behavior (autofill fields, text/image-heavy UI, detailed hoverover tooltips, guided search, etc), while in the US consumers expect a higher level of user control (eg, type into user fields), and a cleaner, simplified “white space” user interface design. Images and layout greatly varies by geo too—in Europe, images of “real people like me” resonate strong, whereas in the US “inspirational images” have a higher impact.

Global product strategy and vision is also not one-size-fits-all. The geo-factor defines the strategy model. For example, in Japan, where top-down hierarchy is built into the society, sometimes prioritizing investment in enterprise B2B solutions (vs B2C) might make more sense to win local market penetration, while the corp might still prioritize self-serve consumer solutions in its domestic US market.

“Your product geo-fit across culture codes and market wants.”

Many companies fear to make the leap into international waters. But the traditional concept of launching core products in US first, and venturing offshore only after maturing domestic market penetration, is outdated. It is often the international markets that are, on many levels, ahead of the curve. A couple of examples: Japan is the world’s #1 mobile-penetration market, South Korea has the highest broadband, China is the world’s largest consumer retail market, with total sales of $5 Trillion, expected to reach 68% mobile e-commerce. Next-gen tech innovation also often comes from international geos. So consider international-first product rollout, and User-centered interaction to maximize your global growth potential across culture codes and market wants.

This article was originally posted on LinkedIn

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