You have a website, or perhaps you have multiple websites, and you want to ensure that conversion in markets outside of UK and US is as high as possible.

In this case, especially for markets in the Middle East and Asia, it pays to know how a country’s culture will impact interaction with your content.

Joe Doveton, Director of Conversion Services at Globalmaxer delivered a fascinating talk at last week’s IDF, run by Oban Multilingual. Here are some of my practical takeaways.

Whatever market you are approaching, make sure you have considered how these eight factors play.

If you’re interested to learn more about international digital marketing, check out Econsultancy’s training courses.

1. Colours

Red is lucky in China, synonymous with beauty in Russia, and used for prices in France.

However, if you make your prices red in the UK, consumers will tend to assume a discount is being offered.

Green means go in Britain but death in Brazil (something to do with the mysterious green expanse of the jungle).

In Japan, the word for blue is often used for colours that in English we would describe as green, such as a go traffic light. Many bantu languages don’t distinguish between green and blue; this can be anglicised as ‘grue’. It leads to descriptions of ‘leaf grue’ and ‘ocean grue’.

Joe’s top tip: use orange in Holland, the Dutch love it; but avoid red, black and gold in Germany, as the Germans are sometimes uncomfortable with these colours.

2. Payments

In Germany, invoice is preferred by nearly half of consumers, with micropayments also favoured (transactions for small amounts of money, often used to buy media online).

In Islamic countries, the charging of interest is not permitted; Sharia compliant finance must be offered.

India sees cash on delivery as the favoured payment method for many online shopping experiences. This can obviously lead to difficulties and potential losses for the retailer.

Joe’s top tip: 51% of Germans wouldn’t go back to a retailer that didn’t offer their preferred payment method. 

3. Website layout

Many Arabic scripts read right to left and are right aligned. How will this affect your site?

Many East Asian scripts can be written horizontally or vertically. Traditionally, Chinese, Japanese and Korean are written vertically, however some have started to be used horizontally, which makes sense for reading of a screen, rather than a paper scroll.

Joe’s top tip: Asian readers are more comfortable scrolling down a long page.

4. Calls to action

Skeuomorphism may have been rejected by Apple, and is slowly phasing out online in the West, Eastern web users may be more reluctant to let go.

In Globalmaxer’s tests, although colour can have an effect, the style and text of a button is most important to conversion rate.

5. Faces

IKEA Saudi Arabia received criticism for airbrushing a woman from one of their catalogues.

Although there are less women featuring in advertising in Saudi, the market isn’t so strict that images should be removed altogether.

Having familiar faces in your marketing is important.

Ensure that context is considered if the subject or market is sensitive.

6. Copy

Joe gave the brilliant case of Italian’s searching for low cost flights. By far the most popular search term is not ‘voli economici’, the literal translation, but ‘voli low cost’. This drives a circle of OTAs having to optimise for this phrase.

There are examples in German, too, with work shirts being searched for with the phrase ‘business hemden’, only one word of the phrase being German.

The web is full of what Joe calls ‘webenese’, and you must be aware of how it affects your customers’ journeys.

7. Technology

IE6 has over 24% of browser share in China, so you can’t afford to ignore it.

Flash sometimes has problems with Arabic script.

Joe gives the top tip, for those going into the Russian market, to use big online marketplaces to introduce yourself, before launching a standalone ecommerce operation.

8. Context

Japan has a predilection for the cute (kawaii), and for the busy web page. Germany on the other hand prefers simple web pages and messaging.

See Joe's slideshare here.

Ben Davis

Published 27 November, 2013 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is Editor at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (4)



great article and more valuable content. nice to read this article.thanks

over 4 years ago



I believe "call to action" is very important and should be visible so nobody misses it! Also colors are important and first of all not too much text! Otherwise visitors will not read it!

Thanks for the interesting article :)

over 4 years ago


Tommaso Lombardi

No Joe, we all wish that IE6 had such a small market share in China. The truth is... it's somewhere between 40% and 50%. I'm telling you this informed by my direct experience: hours of thinking about fallback plans for designing Web pages and campaigns compatible with that living fossil. Good post anyway. Cultural studies, linguistics, and philosophy of language/epistemology have to be mandatory components of our professional development as digital marketers... particularly if we want to evolve globally or work in international contexts.

over 4 years ago



Need to develop and I am looking for steps to create new ways to take this website to bud heights..

over 4 years ago

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