Lingoport recently hosted a webinar focused on product strategies for enhancing successful global expansion. The webinar featured Talia Baruch, Founder of Yewser, which helps companies maximize international expansion, accelerating global growth to win adoption in new markets. Talia integrates the cultural and regional factors in product strategy to optimize for discoverability, customer acquisition, engagement, conversion, retention and brand loyalty in international markets.
During the webinar, The Global Product Strategy Playbook of Leading Brands, Talia shared her experiences helping to guide leading organizations ranging from Google to SurveyMonkey, LinkedIn, and VMware achieve successful global growth targets.
Complementary to the webinar, as a special bonus, here’s a behind-the-scenes interview with Talia, with a walkthrough of her experience helping Trello achieve success in the Japanese market. Enjoy!
Interview with Talia Baruch
We understand that you recently worked with Trello on building their product strategy for Japan and on scaling their global growth. So, we were wondering if you could share any key recommendations or any key learnings from that engagement?
Japan is a fascinating market with unique cultural and regional considerations necessary to factor in product strategy. You don’t need to reposition your value proposition or product experience for every single country, but in some target markets, like Japan, China, Germany, Mexico, and Brazil, it is necessary for market fit.
I’m especially fascinated with Japan as a new market for product adoption and have dedicated much of my career to exploring Japanese market nuance and Japanese consumers.
This is a market where language support alone is not sufficient. Product strategy, performance/experience, and positioning all require fine-tuning to make the product make sense in Japan to allow local growth.
In Trello’s case, they’d already translated their product into Japanese. My team’s work was to run a thorough audit on the holistic user journey in Trello’s Japanese product experience, focusing on key funnels, from discoverability in Japan (non-branded Search being the prominent attribution channel in a low-awareness new market), to new customer, acquisition, 2 by 7 engagement (take 2 key actions within 7 days of activation), conversion to paid subs, and retention (renewed subs). We then provided the detailed playbook PRD (product requirement document) on how to optimize key funnels to reach the target lift in success metrics, with tech specs ready to hand off to engineering and ux design for implementation.
In terms of discoverability and new acquisition in Japan, the key step in this case was establishing a comprehensive Japanese SEO and SEM strategy. In a new late adoption market, brand awareness and engagement are, by default, lower than in early adoption new markets. Therefore, focusing on generating organic and paid traffic, ranking and entry point from local portals is key. ccTLD domain treatment, dynamic sitemap with hreflang, canonical URLs, making Search work across the three character sets (Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana), developing Japanese SEO keyterms to enhance non-branded search (e.g., people keying “task management tools” versus “Trello” ), partnering with local “Power Ups” in Japan (local related portals and platforms for entry into Trello’s platform, similarly to Trello’s partnership with Microsoft’s Planner in the US), etc.
Another local factor that impacts market entry strategy in Japan is its top-down structure where a hierarchical social & business order is honored. Therefore, establishing local strategic partnerships and integrations with local power players is key to build brand trust and credibility. It is common in Japan to commission a local corporation that has already established marketshare trust to write a testimonial validating your brand.
Another regional factor is that Japan, unlike the US, is a mobile-first country, so if you just translated your English US onboarding experience, which lacks “download the app” as a first touch point action, you risk signing up new customers on web, who never show up. Therefore, launching a “download the native app” splash promo in new customer registration flow is important to secure their relevant downstream mobile engagement.
Also, establishing a mobile site versus only a responsive mobile web, is important in Japan. A mobile site allows a lighter-weight interface than mobile web, but with the necessary guided experience and added information that customers expect and can’t get on a native app.
Of course, full function performance on the mobile experience is expected, such as auto-fill, Japanese alphabetized pull-down menu, and auto-correct in UGC fields because, again, most consumers in Japan interface on mobile.
In terms of achieving a native look and feel, Trello’s Taco the dog anime is a perfect fit for Japan. We just needed to culturally customize some of the creative assets, , for example, replace an airplane image on a landing page with the image of a train station, as the train system is a central part of Japanese lifestyle.
In the Japanese market, customers expect flawless localization quality. Local content and transcreation is sometimes necessary, especially on key funnels like onboarding or to reduce friction in Checkout to Complete orders. Emails related to payments need to be subtle, implied and formal, applying the right honorific format.
Japanese phone support during local business hours is expected. Customers really want to see that there is a credible company behind the digital product that they consume before committing to paid subscription.
They actually do read all the FAQs and the “About” page in Japan, so those need to be fully localized. In addition, price plans need to be adapted. Japanese customers are willing to pay more for quality full service, so having a all-inclusive paid plan in the mix is desired.
An article came out recently about how Japanese consumers perceived Walmart as low value because it’s too cheap. It’s a country that appreciates high quality and is willing to pay a high price for it.
These are just a few examples of regional and cultural requirements to make it in Japan.
They require horizontal, holistic cross-functional collaboration to orchestrate across the organization, working closely with both HQ and in-country teams.