Starbucks: The best global retail website

For the 2015 Web Globalization Report Card, we studied 10 retail websites:

  • Best Buy
  • Costco
  • GameStop
  • Gap
  • H&M
  • IKEA
  • McDonald’s
  • Staples
  • Starbucks
  • Toys R Us
  • Walmart
  • Zara

Out of those 10 websites, Starbucks emerged as number one. Here is a screen shot from the German site:


McDonald’s leads the category in languages supported, with 39 (in addition to English), but still lags in regards to global consistency and localization. Starbucks, on the other hands, supports a highly consistency — and responsive — global website, which allows its many locales to focus more on content and local engagement.

Starbucks added Norwegian over the past year.  To get an idea of how Starbucks has expanded globally over the past decade, below are two global gateways.

Here is the global gateway in 2006, displaying just seven localized websites:


And here is the global gateway today:


Starbucks went all-in with local-language social networks years ago — an effort that has proved quite successful. Though the number of followers of the company’s local-language Facebook pages are considerably fewer than the global page, the level of engagement is higher.

Starbucks also supports a very sophisticated mobile app (though the app still lags most other major global apps in localization). Also lagging is the Starbucks’ global gateway — which has so far been demoted to the footer.

Only Starbucks and IKEA made the top 25 list of best global websites.

Zara and H&M are two other retail websites worth keeping a close eye on in the year ahead.

2015 Web Globalization Report Card

The biggest ecommerce day in November? It’s not Black Friday.

In China, November 11th is known as Singles Day and it has quickly become the world’s biggest day for ecommerce.

Tmall, the massive ecommerce website owned by Alibaba is already promoting this day:


Tmall hosts a great number of Western brands that are also eager to capitalize on this day, like Clinique:


Xiaomi, China’s leading mobile phone company, will most likely sell quite a few phones this day as well.


Amazon is not content to be a bit player. According to Tech in Asia, Amazon is planning to offer fast international shipping:

…it means that Chinese consumers will be able to shop on Amazon’s US, German, Spanish, French, and Italian stores and have whatever they order shipped directly to China. Amazon China is also launching an “international shopping” feature that should make it more convenient for Chinese customers to shop for goods they want from foreign Amazon shops.

Any retailer serious about succeeding in China cannot ignore Singles Day.

The question is: Will Singles day soon become a global ecommerce day? 


The worst global websites of the 2014 Web Globalization Report Card

report card

You can be a wildly successful global company and still have a poorly localized website.

A number of factors determine global success and the website is only one of these factors — unless of course you’re an Internet-based company (you’ll note below that none of these companies are “web only”).

I also want to stress that the websites listed below are the lowest-scoring websites in the 2014 Web Globalization Report Card — and not necessarily the worst global websites, period. The Report Card analyzes a carefully curated group of websites, across more than a dozen industry sectors, with the primary intention of noting emerging and established best practices. Some industry sectors simply do a better job at web globalization than other sectors, such as retail, consumer products, and financial services.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten the caveats out of the way, here are the 20 websites that finished at the bottom of the 2014 Report Card:

  • Axa
  • Hilton
  • Toys R Us
  • Sony
  • Citibank
  • Best Buy
  • Visa
  • Hyundai
  • GameStop
  • Costco
  • Dolby
  • Loréal
  • Enterprise
  • Dollar
  • Rent A Car
  • Jack Daniels
  • Kleenex
  • Gap
  • Heineken
  • Four Seasons
  • MTV
  • Ramada
  • Thrifty
  • Walmart
  • Budweiser

Budweiser finished in last place, preceded by Walmart and so on.

A handful of companies have become regulars on this list over the past few years, companies like Walmart, Heineken, Loréal, Sony and Four Seasons.

But there is no “one” reason why these websites finished at the bottom of the list. To paraphrase Tolstoy: All successful global websites are alike; each unsuccessful global website is unsuccessful in its own way. 

It would be easy to blame limited language support and, yes, many of these websites fall well short of the average of 28 languages set by the leading global websites, particularly the websites of Costco and Walmart. But I should note that 10 of the websites on this list support 20 or more languages and Sony and Hyundai support 40 or more languages.

Lack of global consistency is an issue with many websites. That is, each country web team appears to have gone off on its own and created a website from scratch instead of working across company to share common design templates and resources.

Global gateways are often wildly erratic — or missing altogether. A number of these websites offer no visual clues on their .com home pages to help users find localized websites.

One important note: Taking retail global is incredibly difficult. Companies like Costco, Best Buy, Gamestop, and Walmart face steep odds when trying to expand into new markets — for them, the website may be the easiest aspect of going global. Walmart, for example, has struggled greatly in countries like Japan and Germany — and not because of web localization. The type of industry you are in weighs heavily in the challenges you face as you go global.

Having said all this, there is some good news. A few of these companies could vastly improve their websites with relatively minor fixes; that is, they have the localized content but they’re just not presenting it in a scalable or user-friendly manner.  I also know a few of these companies are in the process of rolling out new and improved global websites right now and they won’t be on this list much longer.