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Is your business prepared to thrive in the age of ‘multi-localism’?

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in Retail and Ecommerce

The growth of 'multi-localism' could be a critical trend if your business has ambitions to succeed in markets beyond its home country.

In a recent report, titled 'Competing in an Age of Multi-Localism', management consulting firm A.T. Kearney explored how globalisation is coming under "increasing pressure from multiple fronts", meaning companies must focus on "thriving locally in each market in which they have a presence".

Use of language in marketing and communications will be a fundamental part of any firm's mission to build customer relationships and achieve long-term success in this locally focused environment.

Find out how Language Connect can help your business reach its goals

What is multi-localism?

Since the early 1990s, globalisation has been the defining trend in business, with organisations around the world focusing on growth through economies of scale, efficiency gains, globally integrated value chains and the sale of mass-market products.

However, A.T. Kearney argues this is now being overtaken by multi-localism, which is defined by preferences for local industries, products, cultures and customs. A number of wider factors are driving this trend, including changing consumer preferences, developments in technology and modern industrial policies.

Companies are responding by investing in localisation, which involves the decentralisation of key functions such as marketing and supply chain management.

The study stressed that multi-localism is here to stay, with Paul Laudicina, founder and chairman of A.T. Kearney's Global Business Policy Council and co-author of the report, warning that executives who "ignore the imperative to transform will find their companies increasingly uncompetitive in the marketplace".

Taking a locally focused approach will bring inevitable challenges for some businesses in terms of cost and efficiency, but could also unlock valuable opportunities in markets offering great potential for growth.

The value of language localisation

To succeed in the age of multi-localism, your business must ensure the methods it uses to market itself and to engage with consumers are tailored to have the maximum positive impact on target audiences.

This starts and ends with language. Your company's use of language will prove highly important in many respects, from the actual name of your brand and key products, to the manner in which you communicate with customers, build your social media profile and respond to local feedback.

There are numerous examples of companies having to think carefully about language before entering new foreign markets. When Clairol was planning to launch its Mist Stick curling iron in Germany, it discovered that 'mist' is German slang for manure.

Baby food company Gerber had to think carefully about its plans to expand in France, where 'gerber' sounds similar to a colloquial term for throwing up.

This underlines the fundamental importance of investing in local language research and expertise to get any overseas expansion off on the right foot.

Laura McLeod, senior marketing manager for Europe at graphic design marketplace 99designs, told Virgin: "When you are globalising a brand, local language experts should be involved from the start of the strategic and creative process. Input from the right people on the ground will ensure that the overarching concept fits that region."

With language playing such a key role in marketing, branding and customer relationships, using it in the most appropriate way for specific audiences will become increasingly crucial as the multi-localism trend gathers pace.

The need for 'sensory perception'

According to A.T. Kearney, one of the most important things companies must do to succeed in this changing environment is improve their 'sensory perception'. This involves careful research and monitoring of local market conditions to gain business insights and maximise the effectiveness of strategies tailored for particular locations.

The firm advises organisations to:

  • Keep your eyes on the horizon
  • Follow your nose (trust your instincts)
  • Listen to and engage with stakeholders
  • Monitor shifting consumer tastes and preferences
  • Keep a finger on the pulse of technological changes

Keeping up with consumer tastes and preferences in particular markets could prove particularly important for ecommerce brands and retailers that want to meet demand.

Courtney Rickert McCaffrey, manager of thought leadership for A.T. Kearney's Global Business Policy Council and co-author of the study, said: "Executives need to hone five specific senses to identify and implement successful strategies for each market more quickly and effectively. This will enable companies to become locally integrated citizens of each community in which they operate, which is necessary to sustain profitability and growth in an age of multi-localism."

Whatever the future may bring in terms of globalisation and international business trends, it's beyond any doubt that your organisation must be tuned in to local nuances, demands and expectations in foreign markets where you hope to succeed.

Using language appropriately and effectively is one of the most powerful ways of showing that you understand your target audience and have something genuinely valuable to offer them.

Image: elenabs via iStock

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