For companies seeking to enter new markets, it pays to understand your customer. This is especially true in today’s digital, globalised world where companies have an unprecedented number of tools at their disposal. Against this backdrop, the proliferation of digital content enables companies to reach local audiences at a scale and speed never seen before.

And yet, a new report by SDL shows that many companies are still missing out on the benefits of a digital-first strategy when expanding internationally, opting to deploy a local sales team before first engaging with the end customer through localised, digital media.

SDL surveyed a cross-section of companies, finding that 80% had global expansion plans over the next two to three years, of which approximately a third were planning to expand into up to three countries, while another 30% planned to expand into up to as many as six countries.

In total, two thirds of companies surveyed prioritised deploying local sales representation first. This is despite many of the respondents placing significant value on content, and seeing the benefits of a digital-first globalisation strategy.

But why is this? Ultimately, it comes down to an outdated business strategy, rooted in a traditional ‘boots on the ground’ sales mindset. An analogue strategy in a digital world, if you will.

The benefits of leading with digital

Today, the best way to boost international sales is to improve customer experience and reach the end-user through relevant, culturally nuanced and localised content.

Thanks to the rise of digital media, this is now easier than ever. From smartphones and computers to voice assistance and IOT, the way customers engage with brands has changed dramatically in the past decade. The resulting hotbed of content has created a world of new opportunities.

Not only can brands now reach the end customer in any number of instantaneous ways, they can do so by interacting with customers in their own language. By deploying the latest technology, companies can communicate personalised messages in a highly familiar environment, building trust between the brand and the customer.

This is more important than you may think. Only 20% of the world’s population speaks English and people prefer to buy goods and engage with brands in their own language. In fact, almost three-quarters of consumers in Japan, and 61% in France, would only buy from sites that are in their own language.

The magic of digital marketing is the ease and efficacy with which it can reach prospective customers. Regardless of location, the breadth and speed of digital channels enable marketers and sales teams to tailor and personalise content at scale.

This enables companies to:

  • improve customer satisfaction and retention;
  • provide a better customer experience, and
  • increase brand consistency and revenue.

Digital-first strategies are both cost and time-effective. They reduce the execution risk of expanding internationally and can result in accelerated growth in a new market.

Effective digital-first globalisation strategies

Given these clear benefits and content trends, why do so many companies still fail to implement digital-first strategies? The truth is that many companies can feel overwhelmed by the challenge of delivering effective, consistent content on a global scale.

In SDL’s research, approximately a third of respondents reported the following challenges:

  • knowing when to reuse/update/retire content
  • having to recreate content for different channels or audiences
  • meeting regulatory and compliance demands
  • managing complex approval processes for new content; and
  • understanding very complex workflows

This feeds into the three main content strategies cited by modern global enterprises: increase content production; translate that increased content into more languages which is both intelligently and correctly nuanced; and translate more content faster. In fact, some 40% of companies surveyed by SDL expected their content to be translated within 24 hours, with demand for short turnaround times particularly high in the legal, advertising and marketing sectors.

Looking ahead, digital content is only going to become more important to global businesses. In fact, 40% of respondents in SDL’s research believed that content volumes would increase by more than 30% in the next two years.

This brings into focus the need to implement effective digital-first globalisation strategies. Too often, enterprises seem to struggle to execute their plans, leading to a customer experience that is disjointed across different platforms and different regions. Ultimately, it boils down to having in place adequate digital globalisation plans and support.

By investing in machine translation and automation technologies, alongside services that enable locally nuanced content, global companies can rapidly translate and personalise content to ensure they are maximising the impact of their content on a global scale.

It also means de-risking the globalisation process, by ensuring that the content is relevant to the end-user from the outset. Once it is clear that a product or solution generates a clear ROI, the company can build up a pipeline of sales in new markets at speed based on local demands.

For businesses that do grasp the digital-first opportunity, a world of future markets awaits.

Maria Hudson

Maria Hudson


Maria Hudson is VP Corporate Marketing & Communications at SDL.