Why Popularity Doesn't Always Translate: Lessons Learned from Netflix

December 01, 2015

‘Netflixing’ may not be an official word in Miriam-Webster’s dictionary, but to Netflix’s 62.3 million members the word is synonymous with hours of streaming online TV shows and movies. Popular with more than just cord-cutters, Netflix has set the standard for online video content in the US. However, recently news has come out showing that this household name isn’t having success on a global scale. While many marketers might aspire to achieve the brand notoriety that Netflix has, the company’s success isn’t translating around the world, and in that, there’s a lesson for us all.

via Pixabay

Press surrounding Netflix’s global expansion reveals that national audiences, many who are not native English speakers, prefer their local programming and are hesitant to pay for premium content from Netflix. Though Netflix has launched a Spanish-original series, that one series alone can’t emulate the localized experience that viewers get from their national broadcast networks that often offer the same content as Netflix, just contextualized for a more regional, personalized experience.

Now as a technology or retail business owner, you might be thinking, tough break for Netflix, but this doesn’t have anything to do with me since I don’t sell content—and you’d be mistaken. Brands in these and other industries can often be too quick to dismiss the power of localization and translation. However, customer experience impacts every brand, from beauty to B2B. In fact, SDL research shows that 32 percent of millennial consumers in English speaking countries prefer a language other than English and 46 percent are more likely to purchase if information is presented in their preferred language. Even if your brand isn’t trying to expand it’s global footprint, personalization within your own neighborhood might be necessary in order to speak your customers’ language.

Today there is a wide array of tools available for marketers looking to create a unique customer experience. In his recent industry analysis, Scott Brinker cited 1,876 marketing technology companies competing in this crowded space. Don’t worry - in order to create a personalized customer experience your business doesn’t need to explore all 1,876 options. Learning from the Netflix example, there are key practices to keep in mind:

  • Build a language and cultural content strategy: Take note of cultural preferences and capture customer data whenever possible. Rather than limiting the number of language options to two to three language options on your website, brands should consider tapping solutions like machine translation to reach a broader audience.
  • Target customers in their native as well as geographic language: Research reveals that in the U.S. one in four millennials speaks a language other than English at home. In order to speak your customers’ preferred language it’s important to look at context clues, not just their geographic location.
  • Continue the conversation on all channels: Customers don’t just interact with you during a purchase. It’s important to maintain a localized experience across all platforms including your website, emails and social channels before, during and after the actual sale.
  • Localize your products and services: as with Netflix, having your promotion, support and interactions in the right language is not enough. Your core offering needs to match the requirements of your international customers. Ensure products and service are localized and meet local best practices, expectations and where applicable legal requirements
  • Ensure your core infrastructure supports globalization: Identifying, creating and delivering content based on contextual, geographic and cultural preferences is no small task.  Your technology infrastructure needs to be “global-ready” and able to cope with the complexity of managing and delivering localized information. 
  • Think global, act personal: Delivering information in the right language is the 101 of personalization.  When considering international audiences don’t group them purely by the language they speak or country they live in.  Use all data to design an experience that is personal to them, taking into account preferences and past behavior. 

While your next product launch or sale might not be as big as the season premiere of “Orange is the New Black”, if you can localize your customer experience and translate content appropriately you’ll discover improved customer satisfaction overall. The faster you start localizing your content the faster you can get back to watching that marathon of Friends episodes on Netflix!

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