[This is an old post of mine from the now-defunct OX2 web analytics blog]
If you are a regular follower of the Web Analytics Yahoo! User Group, you may have caught the latest debate on the necessity of using and mastering foreign languages in order to enrich and broaden your Web Analytics experience and competency. While the debate was initiated by someone from Germany, most of the audience in the forum is US-based.
Take no offense, but I like to think we Euros have more foreign language exposure in our own continent than in Northern America. As a quick reminder, Europe is a continental block that spans over 40 countries and more than 15 different languages. How is that for diversity? 😉
I ran into quite a few cases in which European branches of North-American companies have little or no interest for what happens in Europe in terms of Web Analytics. In most cases, this is caused by the enforcement of Web Analytics strategies at the corporate level that cascade down to the European and sub-regional levels.
Make no mistake: Europe is its very own market ergo you cannot apply the same marketing recipes as in North America (or wherever the parent company is based) and realistically expect it to yield meaningful results at the worldwide level.
The same goes for Web Analytics: when it comes to measuring and analysing online behavior, there are linguistic and cultural aspects that must not be overlooked.
So you see, the cultural component plays an essential part in understanding user behavior across regions.
You may have a Web Analyst in place in the parent company but unless that person is versed in foreign languages and cultures, you may have a hard time understanding what your reports means. Heck, even your conversion funnels may be rendered meaningless.
Take the all-too-common example of sites written in Hebrew, Arabic or any right-to-left language, your site overlays and click locations become polluted.
Solution(s): (not mutually exclusive, and very much the contrary)
- Get regional Web Analyst(s) in addition to your worlwide analyst
- Involve regional Web managers early enough in the design process to make sure your content will be the most coherent and meaningful across regions.
- Take steps to ensure your Web Analytics implementation takes into account regional constraints and requirements. If that fails, you may have to consider split Web Analytics per region.
For reference, take a look at what Michael Notté of Toyota Motors Europe had to say about his European implementation during a Web Analytics Wednesday in April 2007 (video ; slides). Michael’s presentation highlighted the need for cross-country adoption of the deployment plans and of the underlying processes that need to be implemented in order for this endeavour to yield results.
I also presented during the event, and one of my key points about avoiding Web Analytics pitfalls was that
when implementing Web Analytics on a pan-European level, companies tend not to take into consideration the needs of their national or local users. When starting a project at this scale, companies need to involve their national entities in the scope definition to avoid that the implementation won’t be able to suit the needs (eg. language problems in the reporting) but also to make sure that no change management issues will be encountered (you first need to evangelize your users and bring them into the discussions otherwise you might end up with people who don’t want to play the game)
When change management has a cultural aspect, make sure you cover all your bases before initiating the change.
Fair enough, I may be a bit biased – since I’m a linguist by trade – but this is my angle 🙂
I take this opportunity to salute our Quebequois colleagues Stéphane and Jacques, who have to deal with bilingualism every day.
As always, constructive criticism is welcome. If you have questions or would like to discuss this, leave your comments on this post or contact me.