Addressing your customers correctly might seem like a very basic concern, but you can’t underestimate its importance, especially when it comes to addressing your customers from around the world. That’s why, when doing business globally, retailers need to think carefully about even the smallest localization considerations. Your products, marketing and ecommerce website should all be localized to suit the cultural norms and expectations for your audience in any country.
Here’s an easy example. Living in the U.S., I’m used to being called by my first name, Yuka. Everyone calls me that and it feels normal. If someone calls me Ms. Kurihara, I feel almost out of place, because we live in a very casual society. I expect my iPhone to greet me with “Hi Yuka!” in the U.S.
When I’m back home in Japan, everyone calls me Kurihara-san (Ms. Kurihara) and that’s normal and expected. Only my parents and close friends call me by my first name. In Japan, if you receive a letter or package, it is customary to see the gender neutral honorific suffix “sama.” Customers are treated almost like a god in Japan, earning the title “Okyaku-sama”.
So if I am receiving a package in Japan, the label will and should say:
栗原由香様 (Kurihara Yuka Sama)
The family name comes first, followed by the given name.
Fortunately, my name is actually quite basic and there are no other ways to pronounce it other than Yuka. But let’s take my sister’s name. Her name is written as 友紀 and pronounced Yuki. However, not everyone in Japan will automatically know how to pronounce this. It can be pronounced as “Yuuki” with a long vowel or even “Tomoki” if it is a boy’s name.
Now, think about a customer’s reaction if, in a phone conversation, you mixed up not only her name, but also her gender? I can only imagine the look on my sister’s face if she were called by a boy’s name!
In order to avoid all these potential mishaps, it is important when writing in Japanese to include a reading aid, called a “Furigana,” to allow entry for the phonetic representation of both family name and given name.
If you are designing an online checkout screen for your global ecommerce site, you need to make sure that the screen layout matches the expectation of consumers in your target country. In Japan, that means reversing the name fields and adding the Furigana in your forms. Once you know the customer’s name, make sure you show proper respect and automatically add the “sama” honorific in the email confirmation, package label and other customer-facing materials.
This is just one simple example but cultural considerations matter when you are doing business globally. Did you know that in France, people have no middle names, but rather two first names? Middle name is a required field in Russia. You need to consider these types of variances for every single country you are targeting.
Don’t have time to deal with this? Then your best bet is to partner with someone who specializes in this type of work and let them handle this for you. If you want to succeed in global ecommerce, getting the name right and treating your customers with proper respect goes a long way.
We’ll cover two more localization considerations for ecommerce in future blogs – keep an eye out for those posts.
Ecommerce customers expect products and material to be available in their native language. Can you deliver? Read more about the importance of localization to today’s shoppers in the Pitney Bowes 2016 Global Online Shopping Study.