Merriam Webster announces ‘culture’ is the word of the year

When operating in different countries, your business must conduct research before attempting to communicate with its target audiences. Keeping culture at the forefront of your mind when planning for business globalization allows your brand to more thoroughly understand its potential consumers and the behaviors that drive them to buy.

The word "culture" encompasses a variety of lifestyle factors, regional patterns and personal choices that comprise an individual's regional and personal identity. Merriam Webster recently named the term the 2014 word of the year, allowing small-business owners to take the time to reflect on how culture impacts the online habits of their international consumer base.

Website design extends far beyond color choice and domain name.Website design extends far beyond color choice and domain name.

Varying cultures affect readership
Culture can have a significant impact on behavior. A consumer living in China may be accustomed to a different type of website format than one living in the U.S., as regional sites feature language, times and widgets tailored to one specific geographic location. User experience, or the way website visitors interact with your online ventures, should vary by region, meaning small-business owners should take steps to ensure different cultures have access to content tailored to their preferences. 

"Research is the first and most important step when creating an international website."

When developing a website for consumers across different cultures, research is the first and most important step. Your brand should delve into the aesthetic factors of website design that may impact how a person behaves on the site. For example, colors have varying meanings depending on the region or culture in question. Marketing firm Smart Insights conducted a survey among consumers living in different countries, and it discovered that orange held significant buying power in areas with large Buddhist populations like Singapore, as the color is tied to power and religious belief. 

Adapting your website for different cultures
Addressing the language barrier is the first step to reaching people with different cultures. Investing in high-quality professional translation services allows your site visitors the ability to read and digest pertinent company information. But developing copy is only half the battle.

According to Geert Hofstede, a social psychologist who specializes in cultural studies, there are five main pillars to consider when researching the behaviors of international consumers. 

  • Femininity vs. masculinity
  • Power distance (or the authority/expertise presented by a brand)
  • Collectivism vs. individualism
  • Long- vs. short-term orientation 
  • Uncertainty avoidance (or shying away from sites that rely heavily on the unknown)

Hofstede noted that these major factors were crucial when communicating with other people, especially when it comes to the professional realm. Understanding your consumers is the first step to providing the highest-quality service to them, as your brand has a more accurate snapshot of the people it hopes to serve. These pillars may impact the way your international partners interact with your site. For example, consumers living in a country that traditionally prides itself on collectivism may be more likely to click on photos with more than one person, while those that value individualism would interact with photographs of one person. Keeping cultural preferences on your mind when developing an international website and adapting content for these consumers could have a profound impact on the international success of your brand. 

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