Lululemon: Global shipping is step one

lululemon

Lululemon provides an interesting case study of a US-based retailer taking its first steps towards going global.

And, like all first steps, this one is rather awkward.

To be clear, Lululemon is only focused on shipping globally, which is a nice feature for English-speaking customers around the world. But I wish the website made this explicitly clear, so that web users who don’t speak English don’t waste their time with the tool highlighted below.

What I’m going to show here isn’t a conventional global gateway because Lululemon supports only an English-language website. But I would suspect that a fair number of international web users may think it will take them to a localized website. The flag, I think, is part of the problem. A user could see the flag and think that this is a global gateway he or she must navigate.

But it’s not an easy gateway to navigate — it’s frustratingly open ended. The gateway link is located well down the home page — not quite in the footer but close:

lululemon_gateway

Clicking on the country name brings up the “Type Your Country” input box.

Here’s where things get interesting.

If I enter “China” I find that my country is supported. This is a fine if I’m an English speaker in China.

lululemon_gateway2

But what if I enter Chinese text? This is what I see:

lululemon_gateway4

Now one could argue that by only supporting Latin text input you’re doing a better job of managing language expectations because there is no translation of text available. Nevertheless, a basic text menu of supported countries would be a better solution than this open-ended input form — and certainly a less resource-intensive approach.

This gateway reminds me of the Seinfeld episode in which Kramer plays the Moviefone guy:

On a very positive note, the website uses geolocation to guest the user’s preferred target country. Shown here is the message that a user in Germany sees:

lululemon_geo

It’s in English, naturally, so I’m not sure all users will find this approach user friendly.

But, like I said, this is a first step toward going global.

For more on taking your website global, check out Geolocation for Global Success.

 

Boeing and the trouble with flags in global gateways

Examine the Boeing global gateway below and see if you can see a problem:

boeing_flags

I did not realize the Middle East had an official flag but, according to this gateway, it does.

And herein lies a major problem with using flags — they’re not well suited to regional websites.

Apple has a similar problem as illustrated by its Latin American flags:

apple_flags_16

So what’s the solution?

Stop using flags for global navigation.

It’s quite simple actually.

And, yes, I do believe that Apple will drop flags from its website. Eventually.

For more on this, check out The Art of the Global Gateway.

The one “flag” you should never use on your website

I visited the home page of the Chinese online travel agency website Ctrip recently and came across this odd flag:

ctrip_flag

Just because the UK  voted to separate from the EU doesn’t mean that it’s considering a merger with the United States (the last I checked).

Seriously, I understand why companies use this hybrid flag—as an all-purpose English icon. But it fails to achieve that goal because flags are not synonymous with language. And, as icons go, people generally don’t like to see their national flags chopped up or merged with other flags.

A better approach is to avoid using any flag at all and simply use “English.”

For more on flags and the global gateway, check out The Art of the Global Gateway.