Why localize a website?

Most of the debate between marketing communication standardization vs. globalization normally deals with advertising (print or radio/television media). However, as consumer usage of the Internet becomes more sophisticated, and as a company website becomes the core of an integrated marketing communication plan, marketers are increasingly questioning whether their websites should be standardized or localized as well.

Schneor (2012) examined the airline industry and their decisions on when and how much to localize and found five key variables drove the decision process.

Traffic volume – Schneor found that the higher the volume of traffic originating from a particular foreign market, the more likely the airline was to launch a localized website for that market.

Physical distance – Schneor found that more distant a target market is, in terms of physical distance, the less likely a local site was created to serve that market. Schneor posits that this somewhat counterintuitive finding is likely due to the fact that the airlines prioritize their more frequently connected locations over more distant markets.

Demand – Again, this variable is counterintuitive, in that the more demand there was from a  market, the less likely a local site would be launched. This is likely due to the cosmopolitan nature of airline users from high-demand markets, i.e. New York, London, Frankfurt, who have less need for a localized site.

Competition intensity – Ironically, the higher the levels of competition, the lower levels of localization were found. This is likely due to the fact that consumers in these markets are more apt make decisions based on price and schedule attractiveness, rather than the degree of website localization. Airlines in these markets are more apt to spend their money on operational cost reductions than localized marketing.

Cultural distance – In this case, the higher the levels of cultural distance, i.e. West vs. East, the more likely a local site would be launched. Since a website is often seen as extension of a service channel, for example, for ticket purchases, status updates, and pre/post travel requests, a greater degree of cultural differences warrants localizing these experiences.

References:

Schneor, R. (2012). “Influences of Culture, Geography, and Infrastructure on Website Localization Decisions.” Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal. 19 (3), pp. 352-374.

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