Alexandre de Sainte Marie has been, since 2013, the e-multicultural consulting service director of Datawords, a web agency specialized in developing the digital content of international brands. His background is impressive: he was marketing director at Henkel and he is the former CEO of Hermès Tableware division. Thus, we were really pleased to enroll him for 2 hours in our Digital Business Strategy class. We discussed changes induced by digital on the traditional purchasing funnel, and then we touched on the different ways to adapt this to our globalized and multicultural environment. Eventually, I will link his insight with a broader point of view on the digital schism throughout the world.
What is the consequence of digitalization on the purchasing funnel?
He started by explaining us that the purchasing funnel is now growing increasingly complex: customers were used to going to stores to buy a product. Period. Now, the purchasing funnel is way more complicated: customers go first on the Internet to find relevant advice (this is why marketing teams have to take into account the increasing role of word-of-mouth, especially on the internet – you can read Chenchen’s article on our blog for further information).
Afterwards, they may need to talk physically about the product and to test it: this is what we call showrooming, and salespeople are no longer just vendors, but true brand ambassadors. Shops were points of sale. They now become points of experience which are part of the global customer experience: every touchpoint has to remain consistent with the brand identity, whether it is a website or social media, shops, pop-up stores…
Indeed, the new way of purchasing has put digital experience at the heart of consumers’ concern.
He also highlighted the fact that the brand identity corresponds to the poorest brand experience all over the world. What does it mean? It is tremendously interesting for luxury brands. Brands must be consistent with their high-end customer experience because luxury customers pay for this very service. Otherwise, people won’t consider your brand as a luxury one anymore. With cross-channel, an issue which occurs in a store can lead to an unfavorable digital exposure. For example, on social media, people can easily post negative comments about a brand. Social platforms allow people to make their voice heard. Consequently, luxury brands have to stick to their high-end approach to prevent any possibility to have their position be undermined.
Why do you need to adapt locally when you develop a brand internationally?
As an expert of luxury brands, Alexandre de Ste Marie emphasized that brands must pay attention to the way their brand identity is deployed. Being consistent with your brand identity is mandatory, but developing a tailor-made website for every country in which you are implemented is also key.
To him, one of the most important things is to balance the digital strategy planned by headquarter and the need to adapt your content to local consumer habits.
Local adaptation is more sensitive than what we think. Of course, it encompasses first the language adaptation or the product adaptation (as we all know that every market has its own preference). Actually, adaptation goes way beyond this. For instance, writing direction differs from one country to another, but have you ever thought that you may need to reverse the direction of the allocated picture as well? It might appear as small details, but these details are tremendously important for luxury brands. These are the details which will make the difference in the eyes of the beholders.
Feel free to click on the picture to see a 30-minute workshop (in French) driven by Datawords sales team, explaining how to adapt your international website for a local client.
There is no such thing as flat universal internet
I deem that this reasoning is nowadays totally insightful. It has led me to connect this with a broader investigation made by Frenchman Frédéric Martel (the author of well-known Mainstream) in his new book, Smart. He analyses in his book the plurality of the internets, and more particularly social media. According to him, McLuhan’s “global village” does not exist and will not exist, even less in the digital sphere. Indeed, social media make us feel like we are connected altogether within this big Internet village. But to Martel, this assumption is totally wrong: we cannot speak about the Internet, but “internets”. For instance, we remain in a conversational realm with people from our own cultural realm: French would speak with Westerners, Indian people with Indian people.
The digital era has made virtually everything accessible, but it is actually beyond understanding for the vast majority of us. Indeed, digital boundaries remain the exact same as in our physical world.
Moreover, one of the main issues is that social media were developed in the US, which raise problem in term of international regulation. Now, countries want to handle privacy and data collection in their physical territory. Consequently, some “emerging” social media platforms are developed (Vkontakte in Russia…).
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I really recommend you to go further with this analysis by reading his book. Smart is for me the smartest (no kidding) insight on the existing and coming digital divide. However, we can underline that overcoming these boundaries is possible, whether we are in the real or in the digital world.