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.

What’s wrong with this global gateway?

Screen Shot 2014-07-21 at 8.18.58 AM

A few things.

First, using flags to indicate language is almost always a mistake.

Second, why are the language names all in English?

Only the “English language” text needs to be in English. The purpose of the gateway is to communicate with speakers of other languages, not just English speakers.

Finally, do we need “Language” at all? I would think not.

 

 

Samsung: The best consumer technology website of 2013

Samsung logo

We studied 18 consumer technology websites for the 2013 Web Globalization Report Card.

The Web Globalization Report Card is an annual benchmark of how effectively companies internationalize and localize their websites and applications for the world.

Out of those 18 companies, Samsung emerged on top.

Samsung emerged on top not because it leads in languages or global consistency, though it is strong in both respects.

Samsung supports an impressive 41 languages, not including US English. Apple, by comparison, stands at 31 languages.

Samsung emerged on top in large part because it has been aggressive  in engaging with users via social media across a number of languages and countries.

Note the bottom third of  Japan home page:

samsung Japan

Samsung embraces a range of social platforms to communicate and engage with users — in their local languages.

Samsung also leverages these platforms to provide customer support, as shown here:

samsung support

Many comparisons have been made lately between Apple and Samsung.

When simply comparing their global websites, clear distinctions are hard to miss.

Samsung has embraced social networking while Apple has not. Samsung appears to be comfortable with a certain level of visual chaos that comes  with supporting social networks and interacting publicly with customers. There are signs on the US website that Samsung is moving towards a new Samsung Nation model in which users register to earn points and virtual goodies — as well as connect with friends via Facebook. The degree to which this model will scale globally remains to be seen though I suspect Asia will pose a challenge.

Apple, on the other hand, presents a clean and consistent design template to the world. There is nothing scattered or busy about an Apple websites (except, I would argue, for its excessive use of flags). And consistency has served Apple quite nicely, though Apple has moved more slowly from a globalization perspective than Samsung.

Regarding the global gateway, Samsung buries the link to the gateway in the footer (not good).

Tthe gateway  itself is well organized, though the flags should be eliminated. As a general rule, flags should be avoided (a subject for a future post).

samsung global gateway

Finally, Samsung has been aggressive in updating its mobile website experience.

In the past two months, it launched a new mobile-optimized website, shown on the right:

samsung mobile

Notice how social icons are front and center. Also notice in the header how Samsung detects the use of an iPhone and instantly poses a comparison test.

Sneaky but smart.

While Samsung still has room for improvement, it does so many things well that it earned out the number one spot, outperforming companies like Apple, Panasonic, and Lenovo.

Here are the 18 consumer technology websites included in the 2013 Web Globalization Report Card:

  • Acer
  • Adobe
  • Apple
  • Canon
  • Dell
  • HP
  • HTC
  • Lenovo
  • LG
  • McAfee
  • Microsoft
  • Nikon
  • Nokia
  • Panasonic
  • Samsung
  • Sony
  • Symantec

Read more in the 2013 Web Globalization Report Card.

Or you can purchase just the Consumer Technology Website report.

Also included: