Ahead of her talk on designing for international audiences at Pixel Pioneers Bristol, culturalisation expert and global growth adviser Chui Chui Tan gives us a taster of what we'll learn about launching a product in a new market
How did you get into focusing on global growth strategies in your work?
I started doing international research 15 years ago for the Marriott International Design Team. I was their external international research consultant for a good six to seven years. Our focus then was mainly to define the digital design (including in-hotel kiosks, mobile, website, and app) of Marriott’s end-to-end guest journey for different markets, covering more than 20 countries.
Outside Marriott, I also worked with other organisations to understand their international markets. This is what prompted me to write International User Research.
It’s quite common that when international research is conducted, the output is often being used to inform one thing, and mostly the digital interface for their international audiences.
As I started running Beyō Global six years ago, I looked more at how data and insights could be used further than digital design. I started to work more and more with teams outside design. For example, I’ve been continuously working with various teams in Spotify for the last 5.5 years, including with their proposition team and regional growth. When working with these teams, we often look into ways to grow their new and existing markets, especially through insights and data. They often don’t touch only on one aspect of a business, such as design or marketing, but the combination of many.
At the same time, I also started working with senior stakeholders who need advice and support on how they should allocate their budget and resources across markets and on their growth strategies. Or I work with start-ups and innovative companies to launch and expand into new markets.
As you can see, it’s a natural progression, moving from general UX to international UX and now a global growth strategy.
What's the number one mistake you see businesses make when they launch their products in other markets?
There are many big mistakes or misconceptions that businesses often make or have. But if we have to pick only one, it’d be them regarding localisation as translation, where they consider that all they need to do when launching in other markets is to translate their interface copy into local languages.
You’ll hear them saying: “We’re in the Japanese market now because we’ve localised our website and app into Japanese.”
That’s why I use the term ‘culturalisation’ instead of ‘localisation’. The latter is often mistaken as ‘translating into the local language’, while in fact, if you want to properly serve your local audience, there are a lot more things you need to look into and work on. I’ll cover that in my talk.
What's the first step you take when starting work with a client who wants to expand into a new market?
I have a framework that I often use with my clients catering for different stages of the business (e.g. from starting a business in one country to launching into new markets to continuously growing internationally).
The framework looks into different components. For each component, I encourage running workshops with relevant teams and stakeholders. The framework covers, for example, exploring if their current infrastructure and setup can be flexible and adaptable for international expansions, and if there are any technological or legal restrictions.
Another activity is to help identify the right market(s) to go for next. Sometimes I’d still recommend my client to do this exercise together even when they might already have chosen markets because it covers many bases.
Depending on the nature of the business and where they are, I’ll choose and recommend the right components for them to focus on.
Can you give us examples of international expansions gone wrong and the impact they had?
You can find many examples online that talk about how various internationally known brands fail to either be sustainable or exist in some markets. For example, Walmart in Germany and South Korea, Uber in China, Danone in India, Shopee in France and many more.
There are often many reasons and cultural contexts that contribute to the decision of businesses to pull the plug on their operations and service in a market, downsize their presence or operate under a different brand name (sometimes via the acquisition of smaller local companies).
Some markets are more complicated and harder to break into than others, but that very much depends on the types of services and products you’re offering and the industry you’re in.
There will be successful and less successful examples in my talk.
What can we expect to learn from your talk at Pixel Pioneers?
My talk will be a combination of theory and practice. I have a section which discusses why having a holistic understanding of a market and its context is important, and how it could affect and have a big impact on a business in many different ways. This is where I’ll touch on how design is one of the many aspects that could drive the growth of a global market.
For those who like practical takeaways, I’ll be sharing a framework which I called “Three Levels of Culturalisation” that should be considered when designing for different markets. I’ll provide recommendations on what actions can be taken for each level.
I'll also talk about the cultural elements that are important to look into when designing a product or service for users from a different culture and how they can be used to define business strategies.
If you like real-life examples, then I think you’ll like this talk as it will be full of them.