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How many of your web site visitors each month come from other countries?
Benjamin B. Sargent,
How many of your web site visitors each month come from other countries? The global customer experience (CX) starts with a visitor from a different country, often speaking another language – with the "foreign" visitor on the outside, looking in. If it's successful, global CX quickly brings them inside, enjoying content in the comfort of their own language and currency. If it fails, you can say "goodbye" (or auf Wiedersehen or sayonara) to that visitor. Why? Your foreign visitors won't find their way to the content you want them to see. Research by Econsultancy.com on Reducing Customer Struggle pegged "bad navigation" as the most commonly identified and most serious CX issue for web sites. But navigation doesn't have to be the stumbling block that leads to a flawed or failed experience.
How can ecommerce web sites attract, convert, and retain more customers? For many global brands, the most sought-after consumer demographics involve people who travel (they spend money, right?). Providing a seamless global CX will improve your conversion and retention rates across all countries and demographics. How should you go about doing that? Look to the companies that do it well for some guidance.
In recent Common Sense Advisory research comparing over 2,000 web sites, Booking.com scored higher than any other site except Facebook and its Russian look-alike vk.com. We found that Booking.com provides the best example of a retail-oriented site that does global CX right. Booking.com is not a client and I've never spoken to them about their site. We picked them as a best practices use case from among the 2,400 prominent web sites we examined for globalization.
Booking.com Offers Separate Settings for Country Logic and Language Interface Source: Common Sense Advisory, Inc. and Booking.com
First off, the company does a great job of getting people to its site. Are you a German looking for a trip? How about Booking.de? Or Booking.co.jp for its Japanese visitors. What Booking.com did right was register many country-specific top-level domains, such as .de, .co.jp, and many others. However, these domains redirect to the all-on-one global web property at the .com address. This domain strategy works best to reduce confusion for all visitors.
The second thing that Booking.com does right is limit the effort it takes to get to the right place. It automatically brings visitors to the appropriate starting place using two zero-click techniques: Content negotiation, parses the browser's page request string to identify the visitor's preferred language, and geolocation, performs a lookup on the IP address of the requesting device to determine the visitor's country.
The third thing that Booking.com got right was an understanding of its cosmopolitan customer base – anyone visiting the site can choose his or her CX attributes. Because the site serves all languages and countries from the one domain, its visitors can mix and match languages and countries in any combination. This is the ideal situation for international visitors. A Japanese speaker accessing the web site from France may initially be given a Japanese language interface with Euros as the currency, but can easily switch to Yen or some other currency if that is his or her preference for comparing prices or completing a transaction. The pull-down menus controlling the language and country settings are persistent elements that appear on all content pages on the site – that is another best practice. The menus appear at the top of the screen where they can be seen without scrolling.
That's three best practices that make Booking.com a delight for the foreign-language speaker. The combination of all-on-one domain strategy, zero-click techniques, and pull-down menus that appear on every page make Booking.com a great example of how to eliminate barriers in the global CX. The best thing of all is that the site avoids the common mistake of equating country with language. Not every person speaking Japanese lives in Japan, nor does every American speak English. It shouldn't be a surprise to you, but except for North Korea, there is no country that is purely monolingual.
Other retailers should follow the example global CX found on Booking.com: simplify the domain strategy, use both zero-click options, and provide manual override on every page for easy switching of country, currency, and language settings. Do these things and you'll improve your conversion rates and get more repeat visits from global visitors.
What can Booking.com do better in 2013? There are several areas where improvements could be made. First up, further reduce clicks. The manual navigation override for language and currency are properly placed at the top of each screen. However, the pull-down menus should open "on hover" as the mouse passes over them, rather than requiring a click to open. This would speed up the task and change a two-click process to a single click, the best practice for menu-driven navigation.
Second, the site needs to add more video. The web is a visual medium. Many users prefer learning about a new service by seeing how others are using it. Booking.com currently offers one video, but only on the US English web site. Also, the video is more like a television commercial and does not provide useful information about how other travelers are using the site. Global sites need video because when being introduced to new products and services, people learn about novel concepts fastest with video.
Finally, Booking.com must go local with social. Today, all their social links lead to English-only corporate accounts. Global social is achieved through local social. To see a different site that does this right, see the various international editions of The Huffington Post like www.huffingtonpost.es/, where the links for Twitter and Facebook lead visitors to country- and language-specific accounts, and where clicking the Facebook Like button increments likes on the local accounts, like the Spanish-language "El Huffington Post."