Winning new markets with hyper-localization - Canva’s experience

Your company's customer data can seriously help you make informed decisions and take the necessary steps when entering a new market.

In this article, I'll share some field-proven insights on what it means to provide a truly local experience, anywhere, and how those insights have fueled growth for Canva’s brand.

Facing the Challenges

Sometimes, we can better understand our community by looking at key differences or similarities across markets. While none of these are sweeping or all-inclusive truths, throughout our research we’ve found some ways in which we can better group markets in terms of things like design thinking and design needs. Here are a few examples:

Globally-focused markets are more externally-focused with brands there seeking to be recognized on the global stage, adopt the appropriate culture, and spur ideas from other places.

Markets celebrating Local are on the contrary more inwardly-focused. Generally, Canva communities in these markets are very invested in local culture and identity, and hyperlocalization becomes more important. For example, they use content to celebrate seasonal events.

Globally and locally focused markets

South Korea is an interesting outlier in this example, as they are a very globally-focused market while still expecting a degree of hyperlocalization that reflects a Korean design aesthetic (especially around pop-culture).

Moving further, markets are different by far more than just language. Here are some examples from retail.

  • In Italy, when people go shopping, they often use disposable plastic gloves to pick out fruit or veggies. It’s uncommon to pick an item off the shelf in small shops as well, you’d be expected to to point and ask the shopkeeper to bring the item to you.
  • In England, on the other hand, things are the polar opposite: self-service has been on the rise for the last 10 years. The end-to-end shopping experience can be completely autonomous.
  • In South Korea, the culture leans more towards digitalization, designed to keep things easy and offer service to an otherwise extremely busy population. That’s why you can order anything online, scan QR codes to quickly buy things you need in a store, and do grocery shopping while commuting.
Shopping habbits that are differ in different countries

We realized that as our international base increased the need to tailor the user experience to meet local standards became increasingly important. 2021 saw us become more focused on deeper localization of some key areas of our product (UX, local payment methods, etc.), and investing in localized channel marketing strategies as a gateway to international growth.

Canva's journey to local user experience


Efforts like establishing a smooth in-house localization workflow and better adapting marketing materials to meet cultural expectations helped us at Canva to better connect with our community. Our goal was (and still very much is) to help them explore and engage with the product, and want to keep coming back to use it.

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Collecting market insights

Additionally, our market research has shown that design communities in every country have different behaviors when it comes to using certain products for their own personal and business needs. This became especially clear when we drilled down on how individuals were conducting or running their own businesses, and what role Canva played in empowering them to meet their goals.

In some markets, we saw a more “informal” business and marketing, trending towards agility and accessibility - they need a tool to help them create marketing materials for their side hustles, or cottage industry businesses (like crafts, personal services, freelancing etc).

On the other hand, we saw in some markets a more traditionally formal approach to marketing tools that is focused on output professionalism and tangible ROI.  

This same duality also applies to the brand tone of voice and design specifics. In each country, the preferred tone of voice can range between informal and expressive to formal and elevated.

Formal and informal approach to business

The informal tone of voice is more warm and friendly: it’s accessible, inclusive, and supportive.

The formal tone of voice is professional, clear, and succinct: it’s authoritative when it comes to what we do - we are effective leaders who speak the business language.

Lastly, when we examined the role of design in each of these markets, we saw a duality in how audiences view design meaning. We were able to (very roughly) scatterplot markets into certain categories, which helps us shape not just our template library but also our approach to design that we use in marketing assets as well.

Minimalist and maximalist approach to business

This type of data can help you craft the right message to connect with your audience across different channels.

Implementing market insights: transcreation experiments

As most readers will know, transcreation is a bit different from just translation. It takes the original intent of a “source” piece of copy and creates new messaging that will be better received by the target audience because it’s adapted to their cultural norms and experiences. Essentially, we reimagine what a certain key message will be for audiences in another country or culture. We’ve been running some A/B testing with transcreated key messaging, implementing some of our market insights to try and drive user growth.

Transcreation of Instagram ads

Insight: The ad’s message, value proposition, and design should be based on learning the market landscape, cultural details, and how our community engages with certain parts of the funnel.

What we did:  

We launched ads with different focus:

  • Mexico: We focused on messaging that communicated the speed and ease of creating new content.
  • Spain: We focused on messaging that communicated canva’s value as an all-in-one-place tool
  • US: Here we really focused on the Canva brand name, as we already have strong brand recognition.

We also made sure to update the images to reflect the current season in each of these regions - winter in Brazil and summer in Spain, for instance.

Ads for Spain and Mexico

Transcreation of Pro upsell dialogues (Japan)

Main idea: Adapting the copy dialogue from focusing on hero features, to features most relevant to the local community.

What we did:

We’ve applied our learnings around what are the most valuable parts of Canva for the Japanese community, highlighting the premium font library (which is incredibly important in Japanese design, where fonts are such an integral part of creativity), along with the background remover tool (also a big hit for the Japanese audience), and that became a huge selling point.

CTA Experiments

Insight: A CTA (call to action) containing a time expression/duration will increase the click-through rate.

What we did:  

We offered our community three messaging variants:

  • Control: The original messaging, translated from English.
  • Variation A indicated the actual trial duration, which adds extra transparency for our community,
  • Variation B had more of a sense of urgency, which is compelling and captivating for younger people
Canva's CTA experiments

Conclusion

Localization fuelled by local insights allows your product and brand to connect with the international community. After we started focusing on implementing the right localized content strategies, we’ve seen great results across all markets.

My advice? Try to invest upfront into understanding your community and answering these questions:

  • How can you better understand your community’s cultural context?
  • Are you meeting the community where they already are?
  • What does hyperlocalization mean in the context of your product?

Just start thinking about your product not as about a set of texts but as second nature to the community. That will be your jump start on building effective hyperlocalization frameworks you will use in the future.

Good luck in going local!