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.

 

Tiffany: The best luxury website of 2016

This year, we benchmarked the following seven luxury websites for the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card:

  • Burberry
  • Cartier
  • Gucci
  • Hermès
  • Louis Vuitton
  • Ralph Lauren
  • Tiffany

Out of these websites Tiffany emerged on top, largely because of its investment in global ecommerce.

Most luxury brands have been late to embrace ecommerce and, even now, have a long ways to go in terms of web localization and usability.

These websites average only 10 languages, which is a major reason why they lag most other global websites. And global navigation is also a problem for most websites, as is support for mobile devices.

But Tiffany is the leader in this category in global navigation. Tiffany uses geolocation to ensure that you are directed to your localized website, assuming it’s available. It displays the following overlay to first-time visitors:

tiffany_geo

Here is the same overlay, localized for German website visitors to the same .com domain:

tiffany_geo_de

This may seem like a minor detail, but it makes a significant impact to customer experience and ultimate conversion.

Tiffany also supports a mobile-friendly website design, though the gateway is poorly located in the footer. Burberry also buries its global gateway link in the footer, as shown here on the German home page:

burberry_2016

For users who don’t speak German, this gateway link is not going to be easy to find. A globe icon would greatly improve usability — something that fashion brands have yet to implement.

In terms of global reach, Tiffany is tied for number one in languages with Hermès. But fashion brands still are not even halfway to reaching the baseline for “global” websites. As shown here, the average number of languages supported by the leading global brands is now 30:

Average number of languages supported by leading global websites: 2016 Web Globalization Report Card
Average number of languages supported by leading global websites: 2016 Web Globalization Report Card

As luxury brands embrace ecommerce, they must also embrace fundamental global usability practices, such as user friendly global gateways, support for country codes, fast-loading mobile websites, and depth of localized content.

2016 Report Card

American Express: The best global financial services website of 2016

For the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card, we studied 9 financial services websites:

  • Allianz
  • American Express
  • Axa
  • Citibank
  • HSBC
  • Marsh
  • MasterCard
  • Visa
  • Western Union

American Express emerged on top with support for an impressive 41 languages; it most recently added Bosnian. Allianz finished in second place in regards to languages.

The AmEx home page, shown here, features a visible global gateway link well positioned in the header:

amex_home

You’ll notice that flags are not used on the global gateway menu, which is smart. American Express also includes “speech bubbles” to indicate that the site has been localized. I’m not sure these icons are needed. Instead, simply present the localized country names in the local languages. And as for those countries that are not yet localized, leave those country names in English, since the websites are still only in English.

amex_gateway

AmEx supports most lightweight mobile website of the financial services sector. It comes in at 800 kilobytes, which is more than five times lighter than the MasterCard and Visa mobile websites.

amex_mobile

Now, there is still plenty of room for improvement. While the global website is responsive, the global gateway page is NOT responsive, which is a significant oversight. And a number of localized websites still rely on legacy, non-responsive templates. This isn’t unique to AmEx as many financial services companies are not globally consistent.

Overall, American Express is well ahead of the competition when it comes to website globalization.

But the competition isn’t sitting still. It’s worth noting that both MasterCard and Visa launched newly designed and responsive websites over the past year. And that Visa has been aggressively adding languages, expanding its global reach.

I expect this year to see a significant increase in languages supported across the financial sector.

 

 

 

Buick: A Chinese success story

I still look at the Buick brand as something for the post-60 demographic (though I must confess that demographic doesn’t feel quite so old anymore).

It’s an image Buick has been working to change for years.

But the beauty of globalization is that Buick doesn’t carry this sort of generational baggage in other countries.

Like China.

buick China website

The Chinese apparently love Buicks.

So much so that Buick sold 809,000 cars in China in 2013, compared with 205,000 in the US.

Crazy.

Here are some insights into why Buick has succeeded in China. An excerpt:

The common view of Buicks in China is different from that in the U.S. The cars are the choice of business people and government officials. Chinese executives are partial to minivans, which don’t come with the kid-hauling image they have here.

General Motors, which owns the brand, has capitalized on that popularity.

When it saw Chinese executives were partial to minivans, it designed the GL8 Luxury MPV just for the market, making it especially spacious and comfortable.

Buick is now releasing models in China ahead of the US.

Finally, let’s look at the Buick global gateway:

buick_global_gateway

This global gateway accurately reflects Buick’s leading markets in terms of sales.

And here is where Buick could be a bit short-sighted — it offers no localized websites for countries where I believe it intends to expand in the years ahead.

Perhaps all Buick needs is China. But what about Japan, South Korea, Taiwan?

Buick is clearly not our parent’s car brand any longer.

It’s a uniquely Chinese car brand.

 

Tiffany’s global aspirations (and room for improvement)

Tiffany China

When I lived in New York, I used to get a kick out of visiting Tiffany. Not that I actually purchased much of anything there, but I was always impressed by how well the store packaged itself — down to that distinctive (and trademarked) blue box.

Tiffany has been slowly and steadily expanding globally over the years — most aggressively in Asia.

This WSJ interview with Tiffany CEO Michael Kowalski offers up some excellent insights into where the company is headed and what it has learned so far:

We do believe there are wonderful geographic expansion opportunities for us. We’ve tried to build a diversified geographic portfolio so that we aren’t dependent on any one region or any one country. We’ve only recently become a stronger presence in the Middle East and we’ll open our first-owned-and-operated store in Russia this spring. We’re also optimistic about potential in China. Our companywide plan is for Tiffany sales to grow between 10% and 12% for the foreseeable future.

And…

We learned we need to be more overt about how we present our brand. A great example would be the store signage. If you were to look closely at the New York Fifth Avenue store, Tiffany & Co. is written in steel letters on both sides of the doors, perhaps two [feet] in length, six inches in height and it’s carved into the granite of the facade. And that’s the only signage there is.

When we first came to China, we were equally discreet and subtle in how we presented the brand and that created a problem. People simply didn’t see or couldn’t see the brand. They couldn’t understand what the store was about. We’ve had to be more direct and less subtle in how we communicate the brand.

I took a look at the website and there is room from improvement.

But first a focus on what Tiffany gets right. Tiffany makes good use of country codes, such as:

  • www.tiffany.com.br
  • www.tiffany.cn
  • www.tiffany.kr

Unfortunately, Tiffany buries its global gateway link in the footer of the template.

And this is particularly troublesome because Tiffany greats first-time visitors with its global gateway landing page:

tiffany global gateway

It’s a fine gateway overall — but if you were to select the wrong market by accident this preference is locked via cookie into your browser. So if you try to go back to www.tiffany.com you’ll be redirected to the local site, whether you like it or not.

I’m not a fan of redirection. Websites should honor user input — but gracefully make users aware of the local websites (and URLs) so users can go directly there upon return visits.