Globalization is not a new concept, but in the digital age, it has taken on a whole new meaning. As product designers, we are no longer limited to our geographical borders. Our products can reach millions of people worldwide within seconds, thanks to the power of the internet. But with this vast opportunity comes a unique set of challenges. How can we adapt our products to suit markets with disparate cultures, languages, and technology access? How can we ensure our infrastructure can withstand the pressure of international demand? And perhaps most importantly, how can we leverage data and innovation to continually improve and evolve our products for global success?
In this article, we explore the essential considerations and strategies that could propel your product to global success by drawing from the expertise that Kevin Goldsmith, Chief Technology Officer at DistroKid, shared with us on our recent episode of the "Product Builders" podcast. Let's dive in!
Imagine launching a product in a foreign market, only to discover that the product's name translates to something offensive in the local language. This is just one example of the potential pitfalls of overlooking localization. Localization goes beyond just translating your product's content. It involves adapting your product to the culture, habits, and norms of the target market. This means tweaking your marketing strategies, adjusting your pricing to suit local economies, and ensuring your product's messaging resonates with the local audience.
Embarking on a global scaling journey necessitates a well-thought-out strategy. As Goldsmith suggests, "It's important to start thinking globally from the beginning if you're building a product you hope will scale globally someday."
Language is the first and most intuitive factor to consider. What language(s) does your target market use? To utilize your product, customers need to become familiar with and fully understand it. This requires translating marketing materials, web/app copy and other informational resources into other languages. Your support team will also need to be fluent in your targeted languages.
Marketing tailored to your target markets also plays a key role in scaling globally. Understanding cultural nuances and preferences in marketing enhances market penetration and success.
Pricing is the next consideration in the global scaling process. Setting a pricing strategy that accounts for the economic conditions of each market without undermining the product value can be a balancing act.
Accepting or facilitating payouts that align with other economies and laws is vital for scaling globally. Being mindful of tax considerations is also necessary to avoid legal complications and ensure financial sustainability. It is essential not to lock the product into a single geography, as this might limit its potential and adaptability in the global market.
Understanding the differences in internet access across various regions significantly affects how customers will interact with your product. Developing a product that caters to high-speed internet infrastructure and low-connectivity areas can be a distinguishing factor in achieving global reach.
When expanding a business globally, it's common for companies to spend a lot of time and resources on complex technology. They expect rapid growth and want a solid system to support it. But this can lead to spending time and money on technology that's too advanced for their current needs, leading to unnecessary expenditure of time and resources.
Instead of planning for problems that might come up in five or ten years, it's wiser to focus on what users need right now and what they might need in the next six months to a year. Keep things simple and practical, avoiding unnecessary complications.
Businesses should also ensure their technology follows different countries' privacy laws. These laws dictate how data should be handled and protected, and not following them could cause big problems. Setting up a legal framework to cover these issues is a good idea.
Lastly, having support team members who can operate in various time zones is essential. This provides round-the-clock assistance and ensures the team can effectively communicate with customers in their native languages, enhancing the customer experience and brand perception. A globally spread team can also give insights into what different markets need, which helps customize the product to meet various demands.
Market research forms the bedrock of any global scaling initiative. It involves meticulously gathering data, analyzing market trends and understanding consumer behavior across different regions. This approach should be ingrained with a deep understanding of the cultural, socioeconomic and political dynamics of your target areas. Moreover, a thorough competitive analysis can offer insights into the market gaps and opportunities that can be capitalized upon.
For those beginning their global scaling journey, Goldsmith suggests:
"If you're in an earlier stage of expansion, trying to build a team in all your target countries is hard. It requires a significant amount of capital, making operating the company a lot more difficult. I would instead try and reach out to potential customers, or work with a local market research firm, or something like that, where you can get at least some initial intelligence that you can build from. You can gain initial customers and then work with them to understand their needs."
Data should be the driving force behind every decision you make when scaling your product. It will help you understand the complicated market and change your plans accordingly. Since business can be very different from place to place, it's essential to look closely at the data to determine why some things are more prevalent in one country than others.
But understanding all this data takes special skills. If you really want to succeed in the global market, you should have a team that is good at analyzing data. The size of this team can change based on how big your business is — it might be just one person if you're small or a bigger team if you're more advanced.
This specialized team plays a crucial role in interpreting the complex patterns and subtleties that data presents. They can see and discern tricky patterns and differences in what people like and do in different places — something impossible to do through a surface-level engagement with tools like Google Analytics. These experts help the company find the right data to answer important questions.
Innovation should be at the core of your strategy when scaling a product. This involves fostering a growth mindset within your team, where mistakes are seen as learning opportunities and change is embraced. If you can do this, it creates a culture where innovation can happen. As Goldsmith says, "A culture that can't handle failure won't be able to come up with new ideas."
You can’t innovate without getting something wrong.
Encourage your team to experiment, take risks, and continually seek ways to improve the product.
Moreover, continuous learning and adapting to emerging technologies can be the key to staying ahead in the competitive global market. Things like AI and machine learning make adding cool features to products easier and faster. Being open to using these technologies can help you create new and exciting stuff that people all around the world will like.
The idea of "never stop being curious" is important for building a culture of innovation. Being receptive to new knowledge and technologies and seamlessly integrating them into the product development process can potentially lead to groundbreaking innovations.
(Are you interested in empowering your team and building out a product culture at your organization? Check out this episode for a deep look at what product culture entails and how you can build one within your organization.)
Scaling a product globally is a complex task. It involves deeply understanding different markets, having strong technology, and a dynamic approach to innovation. If you start thinking globally from the beginning, leverage data to drive decision-making, and create a culture that likes learning and new ideas, you can offer your products to people worldwide. It's important to be flexible, able to change, and always curious to do well in the global market.
If you're eager to learn more and have some burning questions, give us a shout! We're always here to help.
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