Starbucks in Asia: From serving expats to serving locals

Starbucks in China

Starbucks currently has 19,000 locations of which 11,000 are in the US.

According to this Wall Street Journal Q&A (reg. required), Howard Schultz remains optimistic about Asia:

Outside the U.S., Starbucks is now in 62 countries. “The biggest opportunity we have is clearly in Asia,” he says. So far, there are 1,000 stores in both China and Japan, 16 in India and one in Vietnam. Mr. Schultz hopes to open thousands more in China.

“We’ve been in China now for over a decade,” he says. “The most gratifying thing is, when we first got there, most of our customers were tourists and expats, and now they’re Chinese nationals.”

The Starbucks website finished #14 in our 2013 Web Globalization Report Card — a big improvement over the year before.

 

When does localization become capitulation?

I begin this post with a question because I don’t have an answer.

A book making news these days is The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler. It’s about Hollywood’s active self-censorship to appease German censors during Hitler’s reign.

According to the book, movies critical of the Nazi regime were killed because they would have threatened all Hollywood exports into Germany at the time.

According to this NY Post piece, Hollywood is making the same sort of deal with the devil with China.

Changing plot lines, adding characters and scenes, changing the “bad guys” from  Chinese to Russian — all to appease Chinese censors.

China is very careful about what movies it allows in its large and lucrative  market. And this gatekeeper role gives it enormous power over Hollywood.

Which leads me to the question at hand: At what point does localization become capitulation?

This is question every company must ask itself when trying to expand into new markets and cultures.

A Hollywood studio would no doubt argue that it is simply localizing its product to comply with local laws and to succeed with customers.

Which means that Hollywood may end up one day localizing the “bad guys” for each market it enters.

Is this a bad thing? Or is this just good business?

Localization is, after all, about adapting to the market.

I do believe there is a line there, somewhere, that you shouldn’t cross.

When you find that you’re changing who you are to adapt to a market, you should pause to understand exactly what you are changing, exactly what you are sacrificing.

As for Hollywood “selling its soul” to succeed in China I would ask: What soul was there to sell? 

But in all seriousness, this is a big issue and it’s not going away. Companies are  desperate to succeed in markets around the world — markets where they may indeed be asked or required to do things they don’t want to do.

I think of Mean Girls and the lengths that Lindsay Lohan’s character went in order to fit in. (Yes, all the great business issues of the world have been addressed by high school movies.)

And then I think of a quote I from the former CEO of Starbucks:

On a country-by-country basis, the largest hurdle we had to overcome was thinking we had to be different.

 

 

 

The top 25 global websites from the 2013 Web Globalization Report Card

Top 25 global websites of 2013

I’m pleased to announce the top-scoring websites from the 2013 Web Globalization Report Card. This is the ninth annual edition of the report and it’s always exciting to highlight those companies that have excelled in web globalization over the years.

Google is no stranger to the top spot, but this is largely because Google has not stood still. With the exception of navigation (a weak spot overall) Google continues to lead not only in the globalization of its web applications but its mobile apps. YouTube, for example, supports a 54-language mobile app. Few apps available today surpass 20 languages; most mobile apps support fewer than 10 languages.

Hotels.com has done remarkably well over the past two years and, in large part, due to its investment in mobile websites and apps. While web services companies like Amazon and Twitter certainly do a very good job with mobile, I find that travel services companies are just as innovative, if not more so.

Philips improved its ranking due to its improved global gateway. And Microsoft and HP also saw gains due to their website redesigns, which also included improved global gateways.

New to the Top 25 this year are Starbucks, Merck, and KPMG.

As a group, the top 25 websites support an average of 50 languages. And while this number is skewed highly by Wikipedia and Google, if we were to remove those websites the average would still be above 35 languages.

The companies on this list also demonstrate a high degree of global design consistency across most, if not all, localized websites. This degree of consistency allows them to focus their energies on content localization, which these companies also do well. And more than 20 of the companies support websites optimized for smartphones.

I’ll have more to say in the weeks ahead. You can download an excerpt here.

And if you have any questions at all, just ask.

 

Starbucks modifies its global gateway, but problems remain

I noticed recently that Starbucks had launched a new web design, probably to coincide with its newly austere logo. Unfortunately, the new global gateway didn’t improve on the old global gateway.

Here’s the old gateway:

And here’s the latest version:

 

The positioning of the gateway is ideal, but the text links themselves are problematic. Only a few country names are listed in the native language, such as “Germany/Deutschland.”

If you offer a translated web site, the link to that site should be in the local languages, but Starbucks is oddly inconsistent in this regard.

For example, the link to the Brazilian site uses the “z” spelling, which might create the incorrect impression that the Brazil site has not been localized. In fact, Starbucks does support a localized site for Brazil.

In the great scheme of things, this is a minor detail, but for end users, it’s a sign that Starbucks didn’t fully think through the local user experience. Minor details can add up.

Now let’s look at the local sites. Oddly, they do not use the same global gateway.

Shown below is the France site. When I clicked on the gateway link (down the left column), I got an empty window. This was true with a number of European sites. Evidently, Starbucks is still ironing out the wrinkles of its new site. But regardless of the bug, why not use the same global gateway across all web sites?

A web redesign is a great opportunity to improve the global gateway, to make it more user friendly and more consistent across all localized web sites. Starbucks missed an opportunity here.

For more information on global gateways, check out The Art of the Global Gateway.