Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

The digital revolution is a worldwide phenomenon that has changed the way we live. However, it has also complicated the global strategies of many brands, particularly when it comes to balancing global needs with local contexts, says Thomas Husson, vice-president and principal analyst at US market research firm Forrester.

In this time of digital transformation, larger brands such as Apple, Nike and Coca-Cola have successfully managed their global expansion, says Husson. However, for most brands, localising their global marketing efforts has proved more challenging. Contrary to what one may think, rather than simplifying the job for marketers, global digital platforms make global marketing more complicated.

Trends in economics, politics and technology are likely to make global digital strategies that much harder by emphasising local relevance, says Husson. He highlights a number of trends that will affect marketers and their global digital strategies over the next few years.

First, he says: “Geopolitical shifts will drive global fragmentation. Over the next 20 years, experts have agreed that there is likely to be more protectionism and local regulation.” This means that consumers will think more locally and less globally, and marketers’ campaigns must align to that shift.

The next trend, says Husson, is that increasingly empowered consumers will look to engage with brands that reflect their local values. Already they are choosing brands that align with personal values, which are influenced by local beliefs.

The trend towards local economies supporting home-grown businesses means that Western brands that are used to selling their products in emerging markets will face more competition from local businesses. Local businesses have a better understanding of their audiences, leading to more relevant marketing.

While mobile is not a new trend, it is one that won’t stop growing. Forrester data shows that the smartphone unique subscriber base will pass the 3bn mark next year – a figure that represents about half the total population. Husson explains that while many brands provide a locally supported website as part of their global digital marketing strategy, they’ll be missing opportunities by not taking a mobile-first approach. “Marketers think of mobile as a subchannel instead of [as a] way to improve the local offline experience,” he says.

Finally, Husson points out that interfaces such Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant, together with artificial intelligence (AI) will change the face of marketing. However, because AI lacks specialised language and semantic analysis abilities, global marketers should not look to such technology to provide local marketing solutions that reflect culture, nuance and context. Local players will be best placed to capitalise on the demand for mother-tongue conversational interfaces.

The big take-out: The need for localisation complicates global digital strategies. To create the right balance between the global and local, marketers should work more closely with local teams, using an insights-driven approach to create personalised messages and ensuring their global technology infrastructure is up to date.

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