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:

The Death of the Global Manager

Great article by Julia Hanna of Harvard Business School in Working Knowledge:

“Today, I would argue that you don’t put that qualifying adjective in front of manager—we all simply operate in a global environment,” Bartlett says. “It used to be that you would make a career choice to be in the ‘international division.’ “

 

World 3.0: Making Sense of a Semi-Global Planet

I received an advance review copy of Pankaj Ghemeawat’s new book World 3.0: Global Prosperity and How to Achieve It.

I greatly enjoyed his previous book, Redefining Global Strategy, calling it a valuable counterpoint to Tom Friedman’s book The World is Flat.

In his newest book, Pankaj sets out to chart a course forward that balances global integration (globalization) with regulation.

In light of the global recession, Pankaj does not want to see countries revert to an all-or-nothing approach to globalization — either embracing globalization with no checks or balances or completely closing the door to trade, immigrants, ideas, etc.

Of course, charting such a course requires making sense of a world that cannot be easily summarized in sound bites — something most American politicians seem unable or unwilling to do. The fact is, the globalization “train” has long ago left the station. We’re all connected, whether we like it or not. We can either choose to create relationships that benefit everyone or we can live with the outdated mindset that some countries must win at the expense of others. What I really appreciate about Pankaj’s writing is that he believes that globalization (properly regulated) can benefit everyone and he backs up these beliefs with plenty of data and recommendations for politicians, business leaders, and ordinary folks like myself.

What I most liked about this book was how Pankaj debunks popular misconceptions about globalization, which he calls “globaloney.” For example:

  • We have vastly overestimated how global we think we are. At best, Pankaj writes, we are semi-global. According to Panjak, global exports account for just 20% of global GDP. Cross-border Internet traffic accounts for about 20% of all traffic. And about 20% of VC money is deployed outside of that VC’s borders. And from where I sit, as one who studies web globalization, most companies are still very much in the early stages of figuring out how to expand globally.
  • Globalization has not, in fact, resulted in less diversity of brands, but greater diversity. He cites the auto industry, which is more diverse today than it was forty years ago. He stresses that globalization is not a one-way street towards homogenization.While there are Starbucks and McDonald’s seemingly everywhere, the US has seen its fair of share of international retailers set up shop here as well — from IKEA to Uniqlo. But more important, Pankaj illustrates how global brands are effectively localized to such a degree that they are just as local as they are global.
  • Successful global trade depends heavily on trust. And it’s easier to trust someone who shares your language, culture, and time zone. Pankaj cites data to show how trade levels drop the further two countries are from each other. He devotes quite a bit of ink to just how little trade is conducted between the US and Canada, despite our shared language, time zones, and cultures. Why is that? He cites obstacles like lack of harmonized rules and regulations, customs nightmares that hold up goods, and other seemingly minor details that, in total, give companies reason to rethink expanding beyond borders.

However, I think Pankaj does a bit too much debunking at times. Pankaj says that the “race to the bottom” of countries focusing on low costs at the expense of the environment, human rights, etc. simply does not exist. I disagree. He focuses on pollution largely but there are so many other issues that should be addressed.

For instance, factory farming is, in my view, an absolute atrocity and it is now being exported around the world via US trade agreements. That is, when the US exports meat that has been produced cheaply via factory farming, local farmers in other countries are forced to embrace factory farming to remain competitive or go out of business. A number of Korean family farmers committed suicide in protest of the recent trade agreement between South Korea and the US. Pankaj vastly trivializes these so-called “externalities” and, in doing so, overlooks what is one of the great (and growing) forces mobilizing against globalization.

That said, I recommend this book. Pankaj is one of a handful of writers who are tackling globalization, warts and all, in a thoughtful manner. Globalization is not a black and white argument; there are many shades of gray and this book does a very good job of shedding light on them.

The best global airline web site: American Airlines

As I prepare to hop on a plane to Europe, I’d like to focus briefly on the airline industry.

I should preface this post by saying that I find “meta” travel sites like Kayak and Sidestep much easier to use than any airline web site. A few years of recession coupled with the airlines’ collective descent into charge-for-everything madness appears to have stalled any major usability improvements. And yet improvements were made, at least in web globalization, a few of which I will highlight.

We included nine airline web sites in the 2010 Web Globalization Report Card.

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

Of the nine web sites studied, American Airlines narrowly edged out Emirates Airlines for the top spot.

Since 2008, American has added four languages and has begun using geolocation to improve global navigation. The site also leverages a fairly consistent and locally adaptable design template. Shown below are the home pages for Japan and Russia:

The designs do exhibit one common localization problem — embedded text.

For example, you may have noticed on the Japanese site that the text string “always low fares” was not translated. This text string is embedded within a visual element — which is generally more difficult (and expensive) to localize. I’m assuming this text string wasn’t within the localization budget.

A more efficient alternative is to simply keep text out of the visual elements (relying on Javascript and CSS to create an embedded appearance). Doing so allows all text to be more easily extracted for localization.

In terms of global gateways, I give Emirates a slight edge:

Emirates uses this gateway as a landing page. Once a selection is made, the preference is captured as a cookie so the user doesn’t have to land on this page repeatedly. The languages supported by each localized site are evident and, more important, properly localized.

Organizing countries by region can be a complex and geopolitically sensitive issue — particularly with countries that may be viewed as straddling two regions. But I thought Emirates did a good job overall of managing this issue.

There are no airlines web sites in the top 25, so there is clearly room for improvement — but American and Emirates are out in front.

Here are the nine airline sites included in the 2010 Web Globalization Report Card:

  • Air France
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways
  • Continental
  • Emirates
  • KLM
  • Northwest Airlines
  • Ryanair
  • United Airlines

The most popular posts of 2009

With a few hours to spare, here are the most popular blog posts of 2009, based on number of visitors:

  1. The rise of “international” English — otherwise known as American English
  2. Of Kosovo and .ks
  3. Bing Beats Google in Insta-translation
  4. Facebook: From 1 to 100 languages in two years
  5. Is this the next language icon?
  6. Google Translate now in 41 languages
  7. Three rules of global gateway design
  8. Kindle goes international, but not multilingual
  9. Bit.ly is leaving Libya for the islands
  10. Countryless Country Codes

Perennial Favorites
Don’t ask me why these posts continue to rank highly, but they do:

Happy New Year everyone!

I’m really looking forward to 2010…