Strategies to Design Customer Journey in Global Markets: Understand Cultural Differences

This content relates to : DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION


To successfully design customer journeys in different global markets, firms should:
Understand cultural differences in the customer journey
Understand the different roles of touchpoints in different global markets
Prioritize different functions of market intelligence depending on the characteristics of journeys

Hyoryung Nam

Syracuse University

Today, customers interact with companies and other customers through multiple online touchpoints in different channels and media. Although technologies are the same across the globe, customers in different global markets interact with these technology-driven touchpoints differently. This research presents a framework that explains differences in digital customer journeys across global markets, sets future research agendas and outlines managerial implications for multinational firms.  

There are several notable differences in customer journeys across different global markets as follows: 

Online hubs versus brand-owned stand-alone touchpoints. Customers in collectivist cultures (e.g., China, Japan, and Korea) find it harder to switch channels and perceive greater lock-in costs, while customers in individualist cultures (e.g., France, Germany, and U.S.) are more likely to adopt multichannel shopping. For instance, according to an industry report, Chinese customers interact with multiple touchpoints under online hubs (e.g., Taobao, Tmall), while Western customers interact with stand-alone touchpoints offered by brands or different platforms. Thus, brands in China set up a store within the hub platform, while brands in the West interact with customers through brand-owned touchpoints.  

Integration of social and entertainment touchpoints. Customer expectations and needs from online shopping differ across cultures. For instance, according to an industry report, Western customers buy online because it is more convenient than buying offline. Thus, Western e-commerce platforms focus on efficiency by developing efficient search functions and convenient payment systems. In contrast, Chinese customers go online to spend time browsing content and interacting with friends. Thus, Chinese e-commerce platforms focus on engagement by integrating entertainment, social functions, games, and news, and social communities on top of e-commerce.  

Online and offline integration. Online and offline touchpoints are highly integrated throughout Chinese customers’ journeys. According to an article, Chinese customers seamlessly switch between online and offline channels more frequently than Western customers. Thus, an omnichannel strategy can more effectively enhance Chinese customers’ experience than Western customers’ experience.  

Privacy concerns related to new technologies. Privacy mitigation throughout the customer journey is more important for customers in Western markets than customers in emerging markets. For instance, privacy concerns hinder the adoption of virtual agents in Western markets. According to an industry report, 52% of Chinese customers reported they already own or plan to purchase a virtual agent, whereas only 25% of U.S. customers said the same. 


Hyoryung Nam

Assistant Professor of Marketing, Whitman School of Management, Syracuse University

To learn more, read: 

Hyoryung Nam and P.K. Kannan (2020), “Digital Environment in Global Markets: Cross-Cultural Implications for Evolving Customer Journeys,” Journal of International Marketing, 28 (1), 28-47.