Cultural Influence on Business

If you have ever traveled outside of your home country, you might have experienced some cultural shocks along your journey. After all, people are different everywhere, their behavior might differ from yours and they might even have local traditions and habits that might seem odd to you. And, that is what makes the beauty of the world we live in. Anton, from our Business Development team, explains the concept of ecommerce localization and shares a few anecdotes and personal stories about local negotiations and the impact of local specifics on product development.

As a Russian national, Anton was very surprised when he went abroad for the first time to America. It was 14 years ago, Anton was a student, and what struck him was how cheerful and smiley people in the US were when asking for directions. He wasn’t used to people being so friendly with strangers in Russia. As he explains, Russian people are not very effusive and even quite reserved when meeting with people for the first time. After checking that nothing was wrong with his look, he understood people were not making fun of him, it was just how people behaved in this part of the world. His experience in Sweden was quite a cultural lesson too. When waiting in line at a grocery store, he understood he wasn’t keeping the social distance that is required in Swedish culture, after an angry woman gave him a dirty look. And that was long before the COVID-19 pandemic. Anton is now working at Softline in the Business Development team. His team handles dozens of negotiations with global partners on a regular basis, with a special focus on emerging markets (mainly Latin America and Asia). Every meeting is prepared thoroughly with a special attention to local cultures and traditions. As everyone else at Softline, Anton is convinced that understanding the different cultural and behavioral traits of local partners is one of the most important factors of success in global business negotiation. Anton comes up with a few tips for successful cross-border business meetings:

  • Be open-minded and ready to accept cultural differences.
  • Be sincerely interested in the culture of the targeted country. Don’t be afraid to ask your partners about local habits and traditions. They will appreciate your interest in their culture.
  • Learn about local business etiquette. For example, giving and receiving business cards using both hands while bowing down to show respect is very important in Asia.
  • Mind the stereotypes and clichés. By now, you would have understood that international business deals not only cross-borders, but also cross-cultures. However, local cultures don’t only affect business negotiations at Softline, they also impact product development. In fact, we are convinced that understanding local users is one of the most important factors of success in global ecommerce. We have a sincere desire to understand the local cultures’ specifics and differences. Moreover, before entering a new market, our team carefully studies traditions and habits of local citizens in order to localize and customize our products to local needs, optimizing the user experience and ultimately growing sales. When entering Latin America, we had the same approach to Brazil than any other Latin American country using our Russian product. We quickly saw that something was wrong. The conversion rate was 20% lower than expected, which depending on the size of your business can be an immense amount of money. We made thorough research on the local shopping behavior patterns, ran AB tests and optimized our product accordingly. We ultimately reached a 30% increase in conversion. The secret? We changed the color of the interface and slightly updated the customer journey. Unlike Russians preferring moderate colors and customization options, Brazilians showed to prefer a bright interface without customization options. Culture deeply influences how people think, communicate, and behave. It also affects the kinds of transactions they make and the way they negotiate in business. Our localization methodology has proven to be successful many times, helping us to grow our business tremendously. When you are expanding your business to different markets, keep the local specifics in mind.


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