Glocalisation: It Takes Diff’rent Strokes To Move The World


The internet, amongst other things, is a portal for people all over the world to experience the cultures of others without having to leave the comfort of our own culture. It gives us the opportunity to explore the distinct ways in which people living in different parts of the world classify and represent their experiences and act creatively.

My CRO Top Tip for 2013 is to focus your efforts on tapping into cultural differences by researching your audience and testing your website to gauge your ability to successfully influence visitors’ online behaviour. This is no mean feat, but well worth the effort.

“Glocalisation”, a term popularised by Professor Roland Robertson is a “global outlook adapted to local conditions”. This term isn’t applied exclusively to online activity, but designing a website with your potentially worldwide target audience in mind offers a personalised and tailor-made experience to encourage engagement. Without engaging with your target audience, can you really expect to own a winning website?

Nathalie Nahai sites Coca-Cola as a great example of glocalisation in her book “Webs of Influence: The Psychology of Online Persuasion”. As you can see below, not only do they tailor their products to specific cultures (warm Coca-Cola in Papua New Guinea? You Betchya!) the variations in their sites’ appearance all over the world show glocalisation put into practice.

One Size Does Not Fit All

“When it comes to conversion, we’re increasingly moving away from a one-size-fits-all solution towards a more personalised, bespoke approach. Whether your target audience is global or local, if you want to engage with them at any meaningful level you have to understand what makes them click. That’s why it’s vital to research your customer. It sounds deceptively simple, but if you can understand what drives your customer from a cultural, individual and personal perspective, you’ll be perfectly poised for success in the new year.” – Nathalie Nahai

By conducting meaningful research and gathering as much data about your target audience as possible, you can begin to shape your site around their needs and desires. Feedback from your customers, your subscribers and your visitors who left without engaging will all help piece together an Ideal Experience for you to strive toward. What works and what doesn’t? Test your hunches and analyse your data, factoring in exactly how you want your audience to behave. Do they respond to your CTAs? Why not? Test them.

We absolutely cannot continue on this subject without referencing Professor Hofstede and his epic 40 year study into the characteristics of over 70 countries and their cultures. He identified six dimensions of thinking, feeling and behaving within culture which will help illustrate how Coca-Cola came to design their sites the way they did.

Power Distance

This is the way in which a culture deals with inequality or the type of leadership adopted in their country. In the UK, for example, we have a low power distance score and aim for equality. Power should be earned and not inherited.

TEST IT  Visitors to your site will expect information to be available to all and testimonials will offer the opportunity to identify with others “on the same level”.

Individualism vs. Collectivism

Hofstede concluded that the UK scores highly for individualism. With the exception of immediate family, we are focused on looking out for ourselves and relish the challenge to better ourselves. We’re less concerned about the needs of our collective group.

TEST IT  Highlight your USPs. Explaining how you do things differently will appeal to the individualist and invite them to engage in a unique experience.

Masculinity vs. Femininity

This is a prickly subject and one that many would question in today’s society. Masculine cultures adhere to stereotyped gender roles. Men are heroic and authoritative and women are thoughtful and gentle. Feminist cultures mix it up a little and encourage compassion in everyone toward everyone. According to Hofstede, the UK is Masculine.

TEST IT  When designing your site, bear in mind traditional gender roles. Consider familiar themes, i.e. would users engage more with images of a male for typically masculine products/services than a woman for typically feminine products/services? Does it always matter in today’s society? Test it!

Uncertainty Avoidance

Or the degree to which we cope with not being able to predict the future (ahem, Mayan Calendar). In the UK we have a low uncertainty avoidance score and so deal well with the ambiguity life throws our way.

TEST IT  Offering choice (e.g. several levels of service) and allowing visitors multiple paths to the same goal (i.e. a conversion) will add an air of user authority and not being dictated to.

Long Term vs. Short Term Orientation

Rather poetically, this is Hofstede’s search for virtue. Long Term Orientation deems truth as dependent on context, the situation and timing. Traditions adapt and people are willing to invest to achieve results. In the UK, though, we’re Short Term Orientated and so focus on obtaining the absolute truth, a respect for tradition and quick results.

TEST IT  It’s all about response time. For example, your customer service should be instantaneous. Utilise Live Chat to improve usability and consider your social media activity –then improve it!

Indulgence vs. Restraint

It may not surprise you to find that the UK scored highly for indulgence. We don’t tend to operate in moderation and we hold relationships and personal exploits in high regard – we’re a healthy, wealthy culture.

TEST IT  Channel the feeling of health and wealth by using smiling, successful people in your images. :-)

The way in which you tap into and understand your audience’s culture will determine how well you influence their decision making and, therefore, your site’s performance. Now more than ever, you need a targeted approach. The majority of users know what they want to find, so invest time and effort in getting to truly know your audience.

Always test your theories of glocalisation, remembering that what might be right for you might not be right for some.


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