As we move into 2018, consumer behavior continues to change rapidly with new technologies. We are surrounded by touch- and voice-activated devices, all of which are geared toward giving consumers the information they want when they want it. This has created an expectation of instantaneous and personalized experiences. As a result, advertisers and their technology partners need to stay ahead of demands in order to make content increasingly more personalized and authentic. To meet this need, their supporting global product teams must regroup, get back to the basics, and revisit their marketplace approach ahead of 2018.
For more than a decade, I’ve led product teams that have launched impactful and personalized strategies across global markets. Our company's global team is tuned in to the nuances of each region in which we operate, including North America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Asia-Pacific (APAC). To maintain this awareness, my team relies on the below techniques to keep our product strategies sharp and relevant:
1. Go back to the fundamentals.
As companies face global expansion, they can find themselves caught in the confusion of various marketplace demands. Perhaps their products do not have the right local appeal or do not meet proper regional regulations, such as the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This can lead to both time-consuming and costly conflicts. Sometimes the best method is to go back to the basics and see where you may need to update your approach. Sit with your team and think about three key questions per marketplace: Who is the customer? What is the problem? How do they buy? While this may seem like an oversimplified tactic, identifying solid responses to these questions will help evaluate your current approach.
For example, if you're familiar with APAC markets, you know that what works in Japan won't necessarily work for customers in Australia. There are a variety of cultures and preferred platforms, which is why our company takes a localized approach for that region — from product features to marketing.
In assessing the three key questions above, we found that privacy was a primary motivator for how consumers made purchases. As a result, we conducted a privacy assessment over several months for the entire region. We looked at each country separately as well as in the broader context of the APAC region. This revealed which markets had adopted solid, standardized policies around privacy and those we had to approach more carefully. This enabled us to more clearly understand how privacy in each region affected how consumers buy, and in turn, how we could most effectively connect with them.
2. Know your limitations.
An important skill for product teams to develop is the power to recognize limitations. After you’ve asked the who, what and how questions, it’s time to acknowledge that you may not know the answers and start working on how to fill the gaps in your strategy. Be humble and honest about how far-reaching your product is. Being able to admit “we do not know yet” as a team is often more powerful than false confidence. This allows your team to acknowledge the current state of your capabilities and work from there.
As mentioned earlier, consumer behavior changes rapidly based on new technologies and regional trends. A strategy that may have worked a year ago will most likely not work in some marketplaces the following year, so be honest about what you have yet to learn about a new technology or market. For example, we have always had a global perspective when thinking about products. Knowing our limitations and addressing them quickly has become an even more important trait since being acquired. It has challenged us to think broader about our capabilities and be more in-tune with regions such as Southeast Asia and Europe, where the company that acquired us has high visibility.
2. One size does not fit all.
At this point in the global product development process, we’ve identified the nuances of our customers and their target audience and the limitations or needed advancements of our product. Now we must think about how we are going to get this product out into the market(s).
Sit with your product, marketing and sales teams to determine answers to a new set of who, what and how questions: Who do we sell to? What do we sell? How do we sell it? For example, imagine you are a U.S.-based business looking to expand to EMEA. You have answered the questions thoroughly for the U.S. market, but answering these for the EMEA market will be very different as there are privacy considerations such as GDPR, translation and language technicalities, etc. Have your team think globally in terms of larger innovations and trends, but act locally based on specific market needs and consumer behaviors.
As 2017 comes to an end and we kick off 2018, teams must take the time to fully debrief, shift strategies and lay out a successful global approach for their business and its customers. Our rapidly evolving world will continue to change how consumers interact with brands as well as how marketers connect with consumers in an authentic and humanistic way. This will undoubtedly give way to convoluted challenges and new developments in marketing technologies, but those who master the fundamentals, learn from what they do not know and create customized approaches will surely be ahead of the game.