Car companies embrace global automotive platforms but resist global website platforms

Here is Subaru’s new global automotive platform:

subaru_global_platform

Toyota also has a global platform, shown here:

toyota_global_platform

I’ve long made the case that a global auto platform is analogous to a global website or software platform.

You want a design that can be adapted to many different countries, and many different cultures and demographics within those countries. And as you see here, the global platform is skeletal in nature. A steering wheel may be positioned on either side, depending in the market. Entirely different body styles may be attached to the platform.

Similarly, a global website platform is also skeletal in nature, flexible enough to support different writing systems, visuals, network speeds and computing devices.

Ironically, although car companies value global automotive platforms they have so far largely yet failed to prioritize global website platforms.

While BMW emerged as the best global automotive website in the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card, this category is still very much up for grabs.

Too often, we see we designs vary dramatically by country or region. Shown here are the variations of Toyota.

toyota_global

I should note that Toyota does use a consistent European template, but this is not a global template. Now contrast Toyota with Facebook:

facebook

Global templates aren’t easy to achieve, particularly within companies that are highly decentralized. But if a company can create a global template for its core products it can also create a global template for its websites.

To learn more, check out of the Web Globalization Report Card.

The best global automotive website of 2016: BMW

For the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card, we studied 13 automotive websites:

  • Audi
  • BMW
  • Chevrolet
  • Ford
  • Honda
  • Hyundai
  • Land Rover
  • Lexus
  • Mercedes
  • Mini
  • Nissan
  • Toyota
  • Volkswagen

I want to preface this post by saying that automotive websites have historically been strong on languages but weak on global consistency and global navigation. This year is no exception, though there are promising signs that automotive websites are making improvements in global consistency. Automotive companies are highly decentralized organizations with independent web teams and budgets, which often results in websites that share few design elements across country/region websites.

Out of those 15 websites studied, BMW emerged on top.

With support for 41 languages (excluding US English), BMW is among the leaders in this category (Nissan and Honda are tied for the lead).

BMW also does a very good job of supporting country codes, with the notable exception of its US website, located at: www.bmwusa.com.

Because BMW has an oddly separate domain for the US website, US visitors to the .com domain see this overlay:

This is not the ideal solution for this navigation challenge, but it’s better than what most other websites do in this situation, which is effectively nothing.

BMW does lack a prominent visual global gateway across all websites — a feature most automotive websites also sadly lack.

Now let’s talk about global consistency. Here are three localized BMW websites:

bmw

There are three different templates in use here, which we do not recommend. However, at least the logo elements are consistent (though not consistently positioned).

And yet, if you compare BMW to Honda, shown here you’ll even see a mix of logo elements. So BMW still has a slight advantage. Audi, Nissan, and Land Rover also are above-average in global consistency.

honda

Now let’s talk mobile. BMW is the only mobile website in this sector to weigh less than 1 MB.

bmw_mobile

This is significant, and a big reason why, for the first time since 2011, an automotive website made it into the Top 25 list.

For more information, check out the Web Globalization Report Card.

 

 

 

Most global websites now use country codes

As part of the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card I note the use of country codes among the world’s leading brands.

It’s an imperfect process because different companies use country codes in different ways. For example, some websites use country codes as redirects back to the .com domain (not ideal, but better than nothing). Others use the country codes as standalone domains (ideal).

And a handful of others, suchas Amazon and Expedia, have made country codes an extension of their brand:

Expedia Japan Logo country code

Amazon Germany country code

 

More than 80% of the companies studied in Web Globalization Report Card use country codes for at least some of the markets they support. This is a significant increase from five years ago, when many companies were still relying on .com as the base domain for all local websites.

What’s changed since then? For starters, Google has done a good job of incentivizing websites to support country codes. But more important, users around the world actually prefer country codes. These domains function as shortcuts to the local websites, bypassing the global .com site altogether.

The following companies do a very good job of supporting country codes:

  • Adidas
  • Autodesk
  • Coca-Cola
  • Dell
  • DHL
  • Dyson
  • Google
  • Hilton
  • Honda
  • IKEA
  • Intel
  • John Deere
  • Mercedes
  • Merck
  • Nikon
  • NIVEA
  • Philips
  • Starbucks

Want to learn more about country codes? Check out this handy map.

Also, to better understand how country codes should fit into your overall global navigation strategy, check out Geolocation for Global Success.

Included as part of the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card