Car companies embrace global automotive platforms but resist global website platforms

Here is Subaru’s new global automotive platform:

subaru_global_platform

Toyota also has a global platform, shown here:

toyota_global_platform

I’ve long made the case that a global auto platform is analogous to a global website or software platform.

You want a design that can be adapted to many different countries, and many different cultures and demographics within those countries. And as you see here, the global platform is skeletal in nature. A steering wheel may be positioned on either side, depending in the market. Entirely different body styles may be attached to the platform.

Similarly, a global website platform is also skeletal in nature, flexible enough to support different writing systems, visuals, network speeds and computing devices.

Ironically, although car companies value global automotive platforms they have so far largely yet failed to prioritize global website platforms.

While BMW emerged as the best global automotive website in the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card, this category is still very much up for grabs.

Too often, we see we designs vary dramatically by country or region. Shown here are the variations of Toyota.

toyota_global

I should note that Toyota does use a consistent European template, but this is not a global template. Now contrast Toyota with Facebook:

facebook

Global templates aren’t easy to achieve, particularly within companies that are highly decentralized. But if a company can create a global template for its core products it can also create a global template for its websites.

To learn more, check out of the Web Globalization Report Card.

The best global automotive website of 2016: BMW

For the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card, we studied 13 automotive websites:

  • Audi
  • BMW
  • Chevrolet
  • Ford
  • Honda
  • Hyundai
  • Land Rover
  • Lexus
  • Mercedes
  • Mini
  • Nissan
  • Toyota
  • Volkswagen

I want to preface this post by saying that automotive websites have historically been strong on languages but weak on global consistency and global navigation. This year is no exception, though there are promising signs that automotive websites are making improvements in global consistency. Automotive companies are highly decentralized organizations with independent web teams and budgets, which often results in websites that share few design elements across country/region websites.

Out of those 15 websites studied, BMW emerged on top.

With support for 41 languages (excluding US English), BMW is among the leaders in this category (Nissan and Honda are tied for the lead).

BMW also does a very good job of supporting country codes, with the notable exception of its US website, located at: www.bmwusa.com.

Because BMW has an oddly separate domain for the US website, US visitors to the .com domain see this overlay:

This is not the ideal solution for this navigation challenge, but it’s better than what most other websites do in this situation, which is effectively nothing.

BMW does lack a prominent visual global gateway across all websites — a feature most automotive websites also sadly lack.

Now let’s talk about global consistency. Here are three localized BMW websites:

bmw

There are three different templates in use here, which we do not recommend. However, at least the logo elements are consistent (though not consistently positioned).

And yet, if you compare BMW to Honda, shown here you’ll even see a mix of logo elements. So BMW still has a slight advantage. Audi, Nissan, and Land Rover also are above-average in global consistency.

honda

Now let’s talk mobile. BMW is the only mobile website in this sector to weigh less than 1 MB.

bmw_mobile

This is significant, and a big reason why, for the first time since 2011, an automotive website made it into the Top 25 list.

For more information, check out the Web Globalization Report Card.

 

 

 

Most global websites now use country codes

As part of the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card I note the use of country codes among the world’s leading brands.

It’s an imperfect process because different companies use country codes in different ways. For example, some websites use country codes as redirects back to the .com domain (not ideal, but better than nothing). Others use the country codes as standalone domains (ideal).

And a handful of others, suchas Amazon and Expedia, have made country codes an extension of their brand:

Expedia Japan Logo country code

Amazon Germany country code

 

More than 80% of the companies studied in Web Globalization Report Card use country codes for at least some of the markets they support. This is a significant increase from five years ago, when many companies were still relying on .com as the base domain for all local websites.

What’s changed since then? For starters, Google has done a good job of incentivizing websites to support country codes. But more important, users around the world actually prefer country codes. These domains function as shortcuts to the local websites, bypassing the global .com site altogether.

The following companies do a very good job of supporting country codes:

  • Adidas
  • Autodesk
  • Coca-Cola
  • Dell
  • DHL
  • Dyson
  • Google
  • Hilton
  • Honda
  • IKEA
  • Intel
  • John Deere
  • Mercedes
  • Merck
  • Nikon
  • NIVEA
  • Philips
  • Starbucks

Want to learn more about country codes? Check out this handy map.

Also, to better understand how country codes should fit into your overall global navigation strategy, check out Geolocation for Global Success.

Included as part of the 2016 Web Globalization Report Card

BMW & Chevrolet: The Best Global Automotive Websites

For the 2015 Web Globalization Report Card, we studied 14 automotive manufacturers and one supplier (Michelin).

  • Audi
  • BMW
  • Chevrolet
  • Ford
  • Goodyear
  • Honda
  • Hyundai
  • Land Rover
  • Lexus
  • Mercedes
  • Michelin
  • Mini
  • Nissan
  • Toyota
  • Volkswagen

Out of those 15 websites, BMW and Chevrolet emerged in a numerical tie for number one.

BMW and Chevrolet both support an impressive 41 languages, in addition to English. Chevrolet added three languages over the past year, including Indonesian.

 

Did you know that Chevrolet also supports a Georgian website? Few companies have yet tackled a Georgian (and in country) website.

Toyota leads this category in languages but BMW and Chevy do a much better job supporting global consistency across its many localized websites.

BMW and Chevy both support geolocation, which is a positive trend, though they deploy it in different fashions.

Here is the screen that BMW displays to US-based web visitors to the BMW.com website; BMW wants these visitors to go to BMWusa.com.

Screen Shot 2015-03-20 at 7.10.46 PM

This, by the way, raises interesting questions regarding the .com domain, which I plan to address in a later post.

Both websites respond well to mobile devices. Here is the Chevy home page on a smartphone:

chevy-mobile

Not all automotive websites are responsive yet, so kudos for BMW and Chevrolet.

Now, for negatives.

Neither BMW nor Chevrolet support visual global gateways effectively — few automotive websites do. Global consistency still has room for improvement as well. And depth of localization is still weak on many country websites.

For these reasons, and a few others, you will not find any automotive company in the overall Top 25 list.

If there is one common theme that runs through many of these websites it’s that the regional and country operations aren’t on the same page with headquarters. I know this because I’ve spoken with a number of these companies and am always struck by the tension between the various web and marketing teams across various regions. And this is unfortunate because there is no reason there couldn’t be four or five automotive companies in our top 25 list.

I think this will change. Maybe not this year year, but definitely over the next three years. There is much happening behind the scenes right now.

 

Chevrolet wants a consistent global brand — hopefully a consistent website will follow

Interesting article in the WSJ (sub. required) about Alan Batey, the new global brand chief of Chevrolet.

From the article:

Mr. Batey says he wants to unify the brand’s strategy. “We used to operate regionally with each country or local area doing their own thing,” Mr. Batey said. “That’s over. From now on we will operate as one.”

Among the changes: Mr. Batey this year introduced Chevrolet’s first global advertising slogan “Find New Roads,” due to its ease in translation. The Chevrolet design team, at 10 different studios from around the world, also now meet daily via virtual reality screens and conference calls to shape future Chevrolet vehicles.

While the article is primarily about branding issues globally, I can vouch for the fact that there is little global consistency in the Chevrolet (or GM) websites.

Based on the 2013 Report Card, the Chevrolet website was ranked #89 out of 150 websites, due in large part to lack of any one global design template. And given that Chevrolet supports more than 34 languages, a global template is not only essential to global branding but global efficiency.

Here is the Chevrolet.com home page:

Chevrolet.com US

And the China home page:

Chevrolet China

China is an extreme example.

The European sites are visually more in line with Chevy.com, though the underlying template is  quite a bit different.

Here is Germany:

Chevrolet Germany home page

Global inconsistency is not a challenge unique to Chevy. Most automotive websites struggle with managing local websites effectively, particularly companies like Toyota and Honda. The top three automotive websites — in terms of global consistency — are BMW, Mini, and Audi.

You can read more in our Automotive Report.

Chevy Find New Roads

Regarding the global slogan — Find New Roads — I’m not sure I agree that companies need to select slogans that can be translated easily. After all, Nike’s Just Do It slogan was near-impossible to faithfully translate and that didn’t stop the company from using it globally.

My recommendation is to avoid a global slogan altogether.

What is Starbucks’ global slogan? What is Apple’s global slogan? I don’t believe either company has one.

Let your products and services be your slogan. And put the money saved into that global website redesign.

 

 

BMW: The best global automotive website of 2013

Logo of BMW

We included 14 automotive and supplier websites in 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 14 companies, BMW emerged on top.

Even though BMW won the category, it still ranks #44 out of the 150 websites studied, which means the automotive industry still has a long ways to go in terms of supporting web globalization best practices.

BMW emerged on top this year in part because its investment in languages. BMW supports an impressive 42 languages, behind only Honda  and Toyota. Over the past year, BMW added two additional languages.

BMW also stands apart in its support for local-language social networks. On its Brazil home page, for example, it includes this Facebook widget:

BMW Facebook Brazil

And a link to its Twitter feed:

BMW Twitter Brazil

Many companies have built entire teams around supporting their English-language social network platforms but have completely overlooked the importance of engaging with users in their native languages.

BMW does an above-average job of supporting a global design template. Many automotive companies have yet to embrace global consistency as a means of improving efficiency, global branding, and usability for people who often navigate between the .com and country websites.

BMW is weak in global navigation. In fact, none of the automative websites do a particularly good job of supporting a global gateway.

Here are the 14 automotive and supplier websites included in the 2013 Web Globalization Report Card:

  • Audi
  • BMW
  • Chevrolet
  • Ford
  • Goodyear
  • Honda
  • Hyundai
  • Lexus
  • Mercedes
  • Michelin
  • Mini
  • Nissan
  • Toyota
  • Volkswagen

Read more in the 2013 Web Globalization Report Card.

Also included: The Automotive Global Benchmark.