Going “Glocal” with Mobile
Having a seamless mobile presence is now a must-have for international companies. But different local markets have different needs. Additionally, scaling a mobile application across multiple geographies takes advanced planning – taking more into consideration than simply content translation. Creating a global mobile app that is effective across every local market (let’s call it a “glocal” app) requires an understanding of local consumers and how best to take advantage of technology infrastructure.
Understanding the target customer and what they want from a mobile application is fundamental. So is targeting the right operating system. Android and iOS operating system usage and growth rates vary widely across the globe. Apple’s iOS leads growth in the US, while emerging economies such as Russia are seeing more popularity and growth with Android (Statcounter.com). Additionally, a recent survey conducted by Accenture reveals that the majority of consumers are open to experimenting with platforms, suggesting a platform-specific approach may be risky.
Some companies are choosing to target a single device platform, while others are embracing technologies that provide the ability to write one application and deploy it across multiple operating system platforms. Some companies are pursuing a mobile web strategy, investing in a single application that will work on multiple device types. Consider the type of device (smart phone vs. tablet) most relevant to the targeted user experience. For example, tablet user demographics tend to skew older than for smart phones.
Next, the application framework is critical. This should always consider localization as part of design, and not an afterthought. Localization influences everything from how the information is presented to the user (layouts to accommodate varying lengths of text), to how the user enters information (e.g. currency), to the content strategy. Localizing the application can add significant complexity to the testing of the application. While full testing of the application to ensure quality is preferable, it can be costly. Costs can be mitigated if the application is designed well, with localization in mind from the beginning.
As with any software application, determining how and where to store and manage translation content can impact the user experience significantly. If the application pulls localized resources from a remote content management system, this consumes less physical space on the device, and can allow content managers to modify or update the resources on the application without requiring users to install a new version. On the other hand, it can increases data usage (and cost for the user), and impact the user experience as the application pulls data across the network.
An alternative approach is to store localized resources for the application on the device. The major mobile OS companies encourage this. The advantages of this approach include better usability, less data usage (and cost to user) and better battery life (since common content is already on the device, minimizing the need to make network calls.) The downside is that updates to the content have to be done through an application upgrade, resulting in less control from content managers. In addition the application will consume more device storage.
In designing the “glocal” mobile experience, consider also the use of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) by the application. Different markets have very different legal and regulatory requirements around the collection, use and storage of PII data. As a general rule, where possible, avoid storing PII on the device, and consider legal requirements when executing an analytics and customer insight strategy.
With a “glocal” mobile application, test and learn. Incorporate user feedback from local market users early in the process. Functionality that works well in one market may not work in another. Gathering insight as to how the user experience resonates by market can create competitive advantage. Leveraging analytics and listening to feedback posted in the application stores, blogs and customer service channels can deepen your connection to your consumers. And promptly addressing that feedback can deepen their connection to your company and brand.
Finally, keep it simple. Given the relative simplicity to mobile application development, consider a “mobile first” strategy. Simply porting all of the complexities of a corporate website over to the web is likely to yield a poor user experience. Adding functionality to a glocal application can exponentially drive complexity, cost and time to market. Maintain a focus on providing high value functionality that is fit for purpose to the mobile platform and culturally relevant. Your customers certainly will validate how well you are doing.
Learn more about Accenture Mobility at the Mobile World Congress.