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Global Village – Local Taste

Image courtesy of Marcelo Bello

Image courtesy of Marcelo Bello

“Although there is evidence of convergence of economic systems, there is no evidence of convergence of people’s value systems. On the contrary, there is evidence that with converging incomes, people’s habits diverge.”
(de Mooij, 2000)

It is a common belief that globalisation is causing the world to become a uniform and homogenised place, and that people all over the globe will soon be behaving in a similar way. This view is not shared by researchers such as Marieke de Mooij, who insists that cultural values and traditions are deeply rooted and will not be easily changed or affected by globalisation (2000). De Mooij reasons that the increasing wealth in the world will bring a diversification of tastes as consumers will be able to better afford their personal predilections.

De Mooij’s prediction seems to be finding its confirmation in software and website designs, where the possibility of personalisation has become more and more prevalent (My Yahoo!, My EasyJet.com, Google Personalised Home, etc.). But surface customisation, such as offering several ‘skins’ or preferred settings and colour schemes for the interface are not enough when it comes to providing a localised version of the product. Localised means ‘as if made locally’ and a successfully localised product should pre-empt the user’s cultural expectations of what it looks like and how it functions.

It is not a surprise that many studies prove that people prefer to shop and interact with websites in their own language. One such cross-cultural study was conducted by Singh et al. and compared user’s attitude towards the site with their intention to buy (2004). The results of the survey were in favour of cultural customisation. A study conducted by Forrester Research (quoted in Singh et al. 2005) suggests that “non-English-speaking users stay twice as long on localized websites as they do on English-only web sites, and business users are three times more likely to make purchase online when addressed in their local language“. Such evidence should encourage service providers to ‘speak the customers’ language’ and adjust to their needs and preferences as dictated by the local culture.

Globalisation of services made possible thanks to the internet is a great opportunity, but also a challenge. As pointed out by Singh & Pereira “the Web allows companies of all sizes instant global reach and the immediate ability to interact with customers all over the world. (…) However, these advantages come with a price: a likely flood of competitors, all exploiting the same advantages, vying for the same target markets” (2005). The debate on whether to standardise websites for international use or adapt them to the target market is ongoing, but studies seem to suggest that in order to win customer loyalty and trust, companies need to compete at all levels: prices, quality of products, and cultural tailoring of their website and customer services (Simon 2001, Singh, Zhao & Hu 2004, de Mooij 2000).


De Mooij, M. (2000). The future is predictable for international marketers. Converging incomes lead to diverging consumer behaviour. London: International Marketing Review. Vol. 17. Retrieved June 20, 2006, from http://www.mariekedemooij.com/articles/demooij_2000_int_marketing_review.pdf

Simon, S. J. (2001). The impact of culture and gender on web sites: An empirical study. ACM SIGMIS Database. New York: ACM. 32, (1). p.18-37

Singh, N., & Pereira, A. (2005). The Culturally Customized Web Site. Customizing Web Sites for the Global Marketplace. Butterworth Heinemann

Singh, N., Zhao, H., & Hu, X. (2004). Analyzing the Cultural Content of Web Sites: A Cross-National Comparison of China, India, Japan and U.S., International Marketing Review, 69-88

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