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.

 

Why you should be using geolocation for global navigation

In the 2015 Web Globalization Report Card, slightly more than half of the websites studied use geolocation specifically to improve global navigation. This is up significantly from just a few years ago.

Geolocation is the process of identifying the IP address of a user’s computer or smartphone and responding with localized content or websites. Companies that make use of geolocation for navigation include Google, Adobe, Dyson, Emirates — even Jack Daniels.

If you don’t support country codes (which I recommend) geolocation is downright essential. Country codes act as local “front doors” to your local websites. But if you don’t provide such front doors you are effectively inviting the world into the “lobby” of your .com address and expecting them to find their way.

Perhaps they will; perhaps they won’t.

Many companies I speak to these days report that more than 50% of the traffic to their .com domains originate from outside or of the US — so we’re talking significant numbers of people. And geolocation plays a huge role in helping these people find their way, improving traffic to the local websites.

Now, there are different ways to implement geolocation, which I document in the new report Geolocation for Global Success. And it is possible to implement geolocation in a way that is actually worse than not using geolocation at all, so be mindful of the user experience when you develop your navigation plan.

To learn more about geolocation check out:

geolocation_400

The creepy side of geolocation

I’ve long espoused the benefits of using geolocation to improve global navigation.

But I also am quick to add a few caveats, the principal one being that users may not appreciate the potential “big brother” feel of geolocation.

Just because you can tell where users are located, doesn’t mean you need to let them know that you know. As a general rule, I don’t have a problem if the web site “knows” my country, but I do get increasingly creeped out as the web site zeroes in on my neighborhood.

Here’s one example.

Geolocation is very popular with advertisers. I was on Crunchgear recently and I encountered not one, but two, ads blaring out my location:

Yes, I was located in Escondido at the time.

I’d be very curious to know the conversion rates of these types of ads. When they get so specific I find myself not wanting to click on them, regardless of how alluring they may be. But perhaps I’m in the minority.

For more information on geolocation and global navigation, check out the newly updated edition of The Art of the Global Gateway.