Culture Eats Products For Breakfast
Saturday, August 2nd >> Hi, I work for test-cloud in Berlin, as a Ruby developer, and today I would like to talk about icebergs, cat logic and also a little bit about products and culture. So, let's start out with the icebergs, as you probably know, icebergs are quite big, and the main thing about icebergs is that the biggest part of them is under the surface, even over the surface the part is pretty big, and the part under the surface is the part you don't see, unless you know it's there and you don't really see it. The second thing about icebergs, they're pretty damn deadly if you don't pay attention to them, you remember Titanic, right? In intercultural studies, this picture of an iceberg is often used to explain the concept of culture. As in the part above the surface being the part of a culture that you can see. If you go to a different country you'll see people speak a different language, people eat different things, they behave in a different way, all the obvious stuff, and there's a huge part under the surface that you can't see the reasons why people behave like, that ways of thinking that cause different behaviors, maybe ideas that are engrained in people because that's how they grew up, and that maybe they themselves don't even know about that. So, today I'm going to talk about launching your product that's already there. Maybe you already launched in your market, and if you want to go to a market that's culturally different if you want to launch it there, that's what I'm going to talk about. And I will try give you some ideas about how to navigate all those nasty icebergs and not crash into them and thus make your product launch successful. I have a little story about that, for starters, I used to live in Bangkok for a couple of years. That's what Bangkok always looks like in the traveling pictures and everything, that's more like the reality. I mean it does sometimes look like the other thing too, but that's what you get every day. When I was living there, I was working at a small German company. The boss was German, and we once had this situation where my boss wanted one of my co‑workers to get something done, it was a task, he went to her: this is what needs to be done, I want it like this and that and I need it until then. And what happened was, she didn't do it, so my boss got really mad at her, and she was always very unhappy that he got mad at her. The day after I talked to both of them to fix the office atmosphere because it wasn't really nice like that. I talked to my boss who was a German person, if you know what I mean. I asked what was the problem and he was like, well, you know I went to her, I told her once very clearly this is what I want you to do and until when. I don't get why she didn't do it. I needed until then. Then I went to my Thai co‑worker and asked her about it. She said, well, Laura, he only told me once, how was I to know it was important? Because it happens that in Thailand, in a work context, the more often you mention something, the more important it feels so it will move up the task list. Thus, by only mentioning it once, as you would do it in Germany and assume that people would just do it because they understand that you mean it's important, well, he only said it once so I kind of put it back there and do all the other stuff first. Henry Winkler once said a very smart thing: assumptions are the termites of relationships. That is certainly true, I agree, but I would go a step further. In my opinion, assumptions can be the termites of everything. Making assumptions can cause a lot of problems thus this is the first message for today, assumptions are evil. Do not make assumptions, especially if you're talking about a very complex situation, as in like going to a different culture and working there. Of course you have to make some assumptions, because this is how the human brain works, you can't know everything and predict the future. But try to really make sure, if you're dealing with an intercultural context, do not guess. Do not think, well, if I was a Chinese person that's what I would feel about all of this. Actually go there and get yourself some solid facts. How do we get those solid facts? I'm going to give you three points there. This is a very wide field, I can't go into details about everything, I'll give you a couple of ideas, what you need to watch out for, what you need to get in to, and we can talk about that in more detail later after the talk. I'm just going to give you an overview here. And we will start with market research. If you can't see what this is, this is a golden cauliflower, a vegetable. It is being sold on the internet. If a golden Cauliflower can be sold on the internet, you have a pretty good chance that you can find a product for your market as well. What are different factors for that? Different factors are for one thing, who are you talking to? Your audience. Where you're going is on the one hand the country, the market you're moving to, the other thing is product placement and also the timing. So how do we start out? First thing: do not do cat logic. It's a box, I will fit. Doesn't work for cats, won't work for you either. You really want to ask yourself a couple of questions, it's pretty much standard, but you always have to keep an eye on what culture you're talking about. Does my product fit the market, is there demand for my product in this market. If there is, great, if there is no demand, can I create demand for my product? Because, you know, it's not always what people need, it's also about what you can make people want. So, if you can create this demand with your product, that's fine as well. You also want the find out about whether there are any similar products or competitors in the market. And, if there are no competitors, then you need to go a step further, which a lot of people forget: Were there any similar products in that market that have failed before my product? Because that's something you can learn from. You don't want to run into the same wall that a competitor did before you and then crash and burn. You can actually look at it understand what they did wrong and not make the same mistake. At my company we do crowd software testing: website, mobile apps; once in a while we also do hardware tests. We once tested this kind of device, this is not the exact device we tested. It was this credit card reader you can attach to your smart phone, then you can accept credit card payments. It was for a company that wanted to move to Germany with this device. We have a really big tester crowd, over ten thousand people, but we had a really hard time actually finding testers that had an active credit card of the brand that was required. They wanted a MasterCard, they wanted to figure out if that played well with the device and the App they had and everything. We had a really hard time finding testers for that, we were like, how sad, that's a lot of people, right? And then we looked at some numbers. These are the numbers, I found them. They're a little bit older, 2010, 2009, because that kind of data is usually something you pay for. But if you look at the average dollar amount people spend on credit card transactions in different countries, the picture becomes pretty clear. In a lot of the English speaking countries, it's very normal to pay with a credit card, couple of Asian countries, South Korea, Japan. And then you look down there and you're here with China, and France. And then, all down at the bottom you have Germany. In 2010, the average dollar amount spent with credit card transactions was a 158 Dollars. In comparison to almost 8,000 Dollars in some other countries. It becomes even clearer if you look at the number of credit cards that were in circulation in 2009. If you compare, for example, that in the USA, there were 686 million credit cards on 314 million inhabitants of the country. In Germany there were 4 million credit cards and 82 million inhabitants. It kind of explains why we had a hard time finding those people even if we had ten thousand people to chose from. That was really useful information for the company that tested with us. It's not exactly the kind of information they were looking for, because they really wanted to figure out if their device works with the credit cards and the App, but, that's really something you want to know. I mean it doesn't mean you have no chance... because in Germany it's also that you can't really pay with credit cards in a lot of places. So, maybe if you make it easier for people to actually accept credit card payments... You have a chance because people will want to pay with credit cards more. But it's definitely something you want to be aware of. Next point: user experience and design. Keep if mind, I'm not a professional designer. But it doesn't really matter if you're the person who will do all this in the end or if you hire someone to do this for you.The point is: you actually care about it, what to do and what to be aware of. I have a little task for you now. I will show you two things. I want you to look at them, and then try figure out what you think they are. Don't talk your neighbor, just try to think about it. You might know if you've been to Asia. Okay, if you think you know what one of these things is, raise your hand. If you know what both of these things, raise your hand. Great. There are a couple of people, very good. For those who do not know what you're seeing: Of course it's really not something unusual, right. But this is not what you expected to see. What you expected to see, if you think about a whisk or noodle strainer. You could have probably figured out what these are if you, sit down and think about it, and, you know, try to figure out what they do. You would you have arrived there, but you would have needed to put in some mental effort. You would have needed to put in time. If you think about the time that an average user spends on your web site, to download your App and try to figure out what it does and how to use it, that's not really something you want. Because most people do it for a couple of seconds. If they can't figure it out, or if they really fail to understand what it does, they move away. They will delete your App, go to your competitor's web site that's better structured, that looks a way they can understand, if they just look at it. This is the Japanese web site "Rakuten", Japan's biggest on‑line retailer, one of the biggest internet companies in the world. Not a lot of people know that, but it's true. This is what a Japanese person would expect when they think of a web shop. Where they go for on‑line shopping with a lot of products. Not very sophisticated but fun style, as you would think as a non‑Asian person who can't read it. Of course this needs context, absolutely. But this is an international company. So, if they had wanted to move to, say, Germany, you would probably not be very successful with this kind of design and this kind of shop layout. So turns out, Rakuten actually did their homework. That's the German web site, that's what you, as a German maybe, or really a mesh from a more "western" context would expect to see. Another example, this is the US American McDonalds web site. Looks pretty okay, not a masterpiece or anything, it's nice and clean. Big product placement in the middle, you have the menu on the left, you can find stuff where it is. But for example to a Thai person, this might look like the most boring place they'd ever seen, and they would probably never go to that kind of restaurant. To them this web site would look like a lawyer office, or an architecture firm. So they might expect to see something like this. Fun is a big thing in marketing in Thailand. That's how you attract people. You want them to go to a place, you tell them it's really fun there. The colors are really different too, colors mean different things to different people. If you put that many bold colors on a web site for a German audience, you as a German probably will go, what?! And not go to that place. Even if you're not going to change your design... this is a pretty straightforward log‑in page, neutral blue, works with most countries. You still have to translate this to the language of the country you're going to. And if this language happens to be written from the right to the left, at least you have to flip over your design, right? It's not a big thing, but it's something you have to be aware of. If you look at the green button, the sign up button suddenly becomes much bigger because that language just has longer words or more words to express the same thing. There's a lot of languages like that. Germans like their long words as well (Laughing) and you might have experienced that. Let's imagine you have a web shop or something, just your personal project and you're like, I'm going to Germany now! I have this order button, that says order now. Now I have to translate it to German, oh, my God it's going to be a long horrible word. It's going to mess up my design! You put it goo Google translate and it's says 'Jetzt Bestellen'. You're like, Ohhh lucky me. You did fine. Merrrp, that's not how it works because there might be other stuff you need to be aware of as well. Because you're actually not allowed to put the words 'Jetzt bestellen' on that button on a web shop legally located in Germany. Why is that? In 2012 your friendly German lawmaker found a couple of web shop cheating their customers on their buttons. People would click a sign up button and then accidentally buy products, which is obviously not okay. You can't cheat people into buying your stuff. But then your friendly German lawmaker sat down and said we're going to make sure that no German citizen is ever cheated again in any web shop! They worked in their usual thorough way, and what they came up with is this: so you're not allowed to put things like sign up, or continue. It's not okay to put Bestellen. What you can put there is the stuff on the left side, which is order now, liable for payment, enter contract now, liable for payment. In German, that's what it looks like. You have these two line buttons, and it doesn't look very nice. As an afterthought, they added this Kaufen, which means buy. They assume if buy is there, people will know they have to pay, if you write order you might not know you have to pay. Luckily, you can actually put buy on there. Otherwise it'd be really problematic. That's probably what you feel like right now. All this stuff you have to keep in mind - well I really only wanted to go to one other country how can it be that much work. This is stuff you want to be aware of before go. It's not stuff you want to find out after you tried your launch and nobody buys your product, and spent all this time and money and it didn't work. Testing means you did all your market research: you found out there's a market for your product. People want to buy it or maybe you can create a demand. You figured out that people in that market really like green, so you designed everything in green. You turned it around because the language is written from the other side. What you want to do is you want to test it. By testing I do not mean automated testing or integrated testing, you want the grab some people from that country. Do not sit down and take your App and go like, well, if I was a Thai person and I would be using this App now, I would be feeling like this about it right now. Actually go and get some people from that country. You can pay for that, some companies will do it for you. You can ask your friends if they know any Chinese people just get them to meet up with you and show them your App. Observe them when they use it. You can do it on a very amateur level or a very professional level, but it's something you really want to do because you want to make sure it doesn't look weird to people from that particular culture. All right, let's recap a couple of points. Do market research - not cat logic. Do not believe it will fit in that box somehow. I'm sure your web site or App is great, but make sure it fits into that market. Be aware of different expectations, very important point, find out what people expect to see. So they can understand it easily. Make it look and work right. Connect the points before, that's just like more the design side. And then: test it. I can't say that often enough. Absolutely test it before you launch. This is the thing I want you to take home today. If you forget everything else I said, that's fine. Just put this somewhere in the back of your head: do not make assumptions, assumptions are evil. Go there and figure out what the facts are, do your research. Do not just make up things even if it might seem logical. That's what makes a difference if you want to be successful and launch your product in a culturally different market. So, I promise I'm not evil and you can ask me a couple of questions now. I think we still have a couple of minutes time. You can contact me on Twitter, this is my GitHub handle, thank you for coming here so early and listening to my talk. (Applause) do we still have time for questions?
About Laura Eck
Laura works as a web developer for testCloud in Berlin.
She has a background in intercultural studies as well as tech and a strong interest in both fields.
Before moving into web development, she spent three years in Asia, mostly Thailand, where she learned a lot about seeing things from several angles at the same time, understanding differences and finding productive approaches to make things work.
We all interact with websites and apps on a daily basis. Connecting people from all over the world, the Internet seems to promote a culture of its own, internationalized, heavily English-based. But does that mean when you build your app or your website, it will be the same for everyone? Because, people will generally use it and interact with it the same way, right?
Not quite. The web isn’t neutral, just as the people using it aren’t - nor are the people building it. It’s easy to forget sometimes that culture has a huge influence not only on how people interact with each other, but also on how they interact with apps, platforms and websites. Especially if you keep in mind that, depending on your product, the majority of your users might not be as internationally savvy as you are, there are lots of questions that should be asked.
Cultural aspects are something you’ll want to keep in mind if you want to be successful in different markets - and they are something that concerns not only the marketing: They might very well touch everything starting from user interfaces and design right down to the actual functions of your product.
This talk will start you out in important basics about culture and what aspects are useful to look at. It will then move on to practical examples and, most importantly, give you ideas for what you can do to make your international product launch successful. Culture does eat products for breakfast all the time - but yours doesn't have to be one of them!