Are you celebrating India’s festival season? Amazon sure is

Amazon Great Indian Festival

Flipkart has long been the dominant ecommerce retailer in India, but Amazon is no longer content to remain in second place.

Amazon launched its Great Indian Festival promotion this week with free prizes including a number of cars, even a free home.

Just a day in, Amazon claims record sales and one billion hits, which doesn’t really mean anything, but sounds impressive.

Retailers have awakened to the importance of local holidays around the world. Just as retailers outside of China have discovered China’s immensely popular Singles Day, they can’t ignore fall festival season in India.

And this holiday isn’t just about retailers, but any global company. Like Chevrolet, which is offering a free gold coin for purchases during festival season:

Chevrolet India

 

 

 

Chinese drawing even with English on global websites

Over the past decade Simplified Chinese has grown to become one of the most popular languages on global websites, second only to English.

According to the Web Globalization Report Card, which has long monitored languages supported by the world’s leading brands, Chinese was seen on only about six out of ten websites in 2006.

Today, it is seen on virtually every global website.

chinese language growth

That’s not to say languages such as French, German and Spanish aren’t important as well. In fact, French is right on par with Chinese, followed by German, Japanese, and Spanish.

Here are the top 10 languages overall:

top 10 languages

I should also note that Russian has seen a significant rise in usage over the past decade. In 2006, Russian was seen on only 42% of all global websites and now it’s up to 87%.

But there are language gaps still remaining. Arabic, for example, is spoken by more than 240 million people but only half of all global websites support it (so far).

And Hindi, with more than 260 million speakers, sees a paltry 4% of global website support — many companies cling to the hope that English will be sufficient for India. Perhaps for today but not for long. Consider that companies such as Facebook, Google and Twitter have embraced Hindi, as well as other Indic languages, foreshadowing a time when other companies will be compelled to follow their lead.

To learn more, check out the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card.

To learn more, check out the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card.

No Ordinary Disruption: It’s time to reset intuitions

Screen Shot 2015-05-25 at 5.54.29 PM

I was given a review copy of No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces Breaking All the Trends, which I read over the weekend. The authors are Richard Dobbs, James Manyika, and Jonathan Woetzel — all directors at the McKinsey Global Institute.

Readers of this blog are not going to be surprised by some of the disruptions highlighted by this book, namely the enormous impact that emerging economies are having on global brands (and future global brands). In fact, I doubt readers will find any of these four disruptive forces to be unique.

But what’s unique is how the book ties these four major forces together in a book that’s packed with insights and anecdotes while remaining free of management-speak.

First, here are the four disruptive forces:

  1. The age of urbanization, creating massive new cities in emerging economies. By 2025, 48 of the largest 200 cities will be in China. This is resulting in a shift in the earth’s economic “center of gravity” back towards Asia. The center of gravity used to be centered over India and China and now it’s headed back again.
  2. Accelerating technological change. It used to take a very long time for a technology to reach “scale” — but now, driven in large part by mobile penetration of smartphones, an application can go from one to 500 million users in less than a year.
  3. Aging populations, placing a greater economic burden on fewer workers. China is a lot like the US in facing a future with fewer workers relative to the number of elderly.
  4. Greater (and more complex) interconnectedness. We’re all more tightly connected than ever before, which is nice if you want to sell your product anywhere in the world, but uncomfortable when you realize anyone else in the world is now a potential competitor.

Don’t expect this book to give you any concrete secrets about how to successfully navigate these forces — the authors rightfully point out that there are just too many variables at play to know exactly what this future world will look like.

What this book excels at is quickly summarizing these forces and the challenges they pose to businesses and policy makers. And using real-world examples to illustrate these forces.

I enjoyed the many visuals included in the book, such as this one, illustrating this shifting of the economic center of gravity:

ScreenHunter_01-Dec.-18-12.15

From a web globalization perspective, a few parts of the book jumped out at me, such as:

  • China’s ecommerce market is now the world’s largest. But this is just one country — globally, well more than a billion people will be joining the “consumer class” over the next decade. And they won’t be based in developed markets.
  • The rise of emerging-market competitors are going to keep legacy multinationals on their toes. I would place Xiaomi in this group — a fast-moving Chinese company with global ambitions.
  • When going global, you should focus on cities and urban centers, not regions or countries. I found this point to be among the most important takeaways for those managing web and product localization. If you consider just how complicated it is to market a product across the United States, with all the many ethnic groups, economic classes, geographic regions, age groups, etc. it’s only logical that you need to think similarly about other countries.

The authors want this book to help you “reset your intuitions” about the world as you know it. For instance, we can’t think of China as a country with two large cities. It’s a country with numerous cities that rival many European countries in population. And we need to be on the lookout for opportunities (and threats) in countries that we may have overlooked in years past. There are a number of African countries, for example, that Chinese companies are now heavily invested in. And companies are learning that products and distribution strategies that succeed in emerging economies often have little in common with what works in more developed economies. These lessons are important to learn earlier than later!

Perhaps the most important message the authors deliver is one of staying curious and adaptable.

These are traits that make successful managers of global websites. After all, we can’t know what’s around the corner with any degree of certainty. But by keeping a curious and open mind you will be prepared to ride these waves as they come along.

So what if the icons are ugly, iOS 7 now supports Tamil

ciao

So I just spent an hour upgrading my iPhone to iOS 7.

My first thought was: Boy, these icons are ugly.

And there’s this strange mix of text-only buttons and visual buttons. Some of the apps feel like a step backwards, like Calendar. It all feels a bit rushed. Like the folks at top were so eager to launch something “new” that they didn’t give enough thought to why they were making some of the changes they made.

But this post isn’t about what I think about the design. I’m stuck with it, for now at least.

This post is about what global improvements Apple has made to iOS 7.

And there are a few positives to highlight.

Let’s start with the welcome screen when you see on first use. In iOS 6, only the swipe screen iterated between languages. In iOS 7, the languages are now front and center, which is  nice to see. This austere welcome page conveys the enthusiasm that Apple has for welcoming users from around the world. And I think it’s cool to highlight the supported languages, even if most users will only ever use one language.

iOS7 multilingual

As an aside, you don’t see any flags here do you? No flags at all in the operating system, which contrasts with the Apple website. It’s just a matter of time before Apple abandons flags on its website as well (or so I’ve long hoped!).

I also want to highlight the new keyboard input and dictionary support for Tamil.

tamil

Apple supports two types of Tamil inputs — Tamil99, which is the officially approved input keyboard, (shown above) and an Anjal keyboard, which provides a phonetic input.

Finally, here are a few additional improvements for China, which is now Apple’s second-largest market.

  • Tencent Weibo social network integration.
  • Chinese-English bilingual dictionary.
  • Improved Chinese input including T9 keyboard for pinyin; handwriting recognition for multiple Chinese characters.

Overall, there’s nothing truly groundbreaking here, just slow and steady improvements.

 

 

 

Questions to ask before entering an emerging market

Here’s my latest post for client Pitney Bowes:

For companies in search of global growth, emerging markets are hard to resist. But like the California gold fields of the 1850s, the promise of riches doesn’t always result in riches. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have an emerging market strategy — you absolutely should. But set your expectations accordingly.

Begin by understanding that “emerging market” can apply to diverse range of countries, cultures, governments, and growth rates. China, for example, is considered an emerging market even though its economy is more than ten times the size of Turkey — another emerging market.

And China, despite its massive size, may for some companies be a more challenging market to succeed in than other markets. For example, a number of American multinationals, most notably Facebook and Google, have been humbled by China’s “great firewall,” which has often left their websites blocked to hundreds of millions of Internet users. Meanwhile, Facebook has been surprisingly successful in Indonesia — another emerging market that often gets overlooked by companies rushing headfirst into China.

As you begin crafting an emerging market strategy, keep your eyes open to all emerging markets, and not just the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, China).

And consider the following ten questions.

 

Living in a post-PC world

tablet

PCs, laptops, tablets, smartphones

The latest data from IDC show the sharpest decline in PC sales on record. From the release:

“Although the reduction in shipments was not a surprise, the magnitude of the contraction is both surprising and worrisome,” said David Daoud, IDC Research Director, Personal Computing. “The industry is going through a critical crossroads, and strategic choices will have to be made as to how to compete with the proliferation of alternative devices and remain relevant to the consumer.”

So is it safe to say we are not longer “entering” the post-PC era and are now living in it?

I would say so, with a caveat.

As global transformations go, this one has been highly uneven.

The fact is, there are many people in the US who don’t own a mobile phone or a tablet. For these folks, the post-PC era has not yet arrived.

And if you look outside the US, you might say we’ve been living in the post-PC era for quite some time. Or, to be more accurate, a non-PC era.

That is, many emerging markets leapfrogged PCs altogether (from the consumer’s perspective) and have been mobile-centric all along.

Case in point is this chart of PC vs. mobile Internet usage in India, courtesy of KPCB and StatCounter.

graph: desktop vs mobile internet in India

 

Judging by this chart you could argue that India has been “post-PC” since 2011.

Last year, I updated the Report Card methodology to factor in the globalization of mobile websites and mobile apps. This year, I’ve given additional weight to companies that treat mobile on par with PC in regards to globalization investment, which is a key factor why Hotels.com performed so well and why Google retained the top spot.

Needless to say, these are challenging times for web teams that must support a dizzying array of devices and screen sizes.

But this is also an exciting time. The Internet is, for millions of people, more within reach than ever before.