Traditional trade and finance have flatlined in the 21st century, making way for digital transformation to broaden the global economy. It has already become one of the most invaluable methods of growth for companies worldwide. And there’s plenty of research to support the continued success of globalization, including the fact that international services are globalizing at a rate of +9% a year. This means agencies learn about and prepare themselves for the effects of the globalization of services sooner than later. 

We’ll cover each of these changes in-depth in this article. But first, let’s look at digital transformation as a whole. 

What’s digital transformation? 

In a nutshell, it’s the act of infusing technology into all areas of business to make every department and process more efficient. No matter what industry you’re in or how small your business is, digital transformation should make your shortlist of key objectives in the coming years.  

Research from Altimeter Group shows that digital transformation has the potential to help a company boost profits, attract and keep better talent, and increase long-term customer engagement. Of all the businesses they studied, 55% said they decided to implement these changes because of growing customer demand as well as new audience preferences. And a vast majority of these companies (81%) agree that innovation is their number one goal in the coming years, which is why they plan to continue their investment into digital transformation. 

If you’re just dipping your toe into all of this, the good news is there are plenty of other successful brands you can learn from. From software to cars to retail, businesses across all industries have found ways to invest in and implement the elements above. 

Here’s a small selection of those brands and how they got to where they are today thanks to digital transformation and globalization: 

  • Google. The World Economic Forum’s Digital Transformation of Industries initiative used Google as one of their case studies as an example of how important digital transformation is for both industry and society. Google’s primary mission was to expand its global portfolio. In doing so, the tech giant was able to discover, fund, and use world-changing tools like the ones provided by unicorns such as Nest and Uber.  
  • Salesforce. Acquiring Tableau (a data visualization tool) was a move that experts (ironically) agreed signaled to the rest of the world that digital transformation wasn’t just for Silicon Valley hotshots. Why? Because joining forces with this brand had more to do with the industry’s need to simplify products and provide additional customer value than anything else. Through digital transformation, Salesforce and other businesses are able to provide better, more effective service in simpler ways, which ends up creating higher-value products for consumers in a win-win scenario. 
  • Porsche. Given how technologically advanced our modern vehicles are, it should come as no surprise that this luxury car company has made digital transformation a stepping stone for their future. In addition to further infusing technology into their products, Porsche has also found new ways to digitize sales, major processes, and even their very own workspace. 

Some honorable mentions include Nike and Target whose digital transformations took them two and eight years, respectively, and earned both brands more than 65% growth in their stock price rates.

What are the major components of digital transformation? 

If you’re wondering what exactly these forward-thinking brands have or will be investing in, you can bet it’s on one or more of these major digital transformation components:

  • Business technology strategy
    The right tools and infrastructure must be in place before businesses even consider making the transition. Training employees on using these systems, integrating new software with existing platforms, and altering operations on a grand scale are just some of the tasks required for this foundational step. 

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  • Talent recruitment
    Digital transformation is helping developed countries get more involved in doing business worldwide. For example, companies based in Southeast Asia are now using different strategies to recruit top talent from all over the globe to work for them remotely. And, with help from the right tools, they’re able to do all of this without disrupting their flow of business. 

  • Globalization of services
    Globalization isn’t limited to just goods. In addition to the personnel and technological components we’ve already mentioned, globalization has an incredible impact on services as well. If you have an internet connection you can hire or outsource projects to specialists anywhere in the world. And, thanks to recent innovations in technology, there are even more tools available to help agencies streamline production in other ways. 

Bringing it all together

True transformation comes from combining all three of these elements (the right tools, people, and services) at the same time. Although you can work on one of these ideas at a time, you’ll ultimately need all of them to bring your agency up to speed. 

The best strategy is nothing without the best workforce to pull it off. And even the best workforce often needs help with completing skilled and unskilled tasks in order to streamline their own productivity. When these elements come together, they form a powerful method for scaling products and services at a high level. 

But there’s one particular element we’d like to highlight, and it’s (you guessed it) the globalization of services. While most businesses have caught on to technology adoption and new hiring strategies, the globalization of services is one area where most businesses can use a little improvement or additional knowledge. 

Here’s everything you need to know about it and what role it will play this coming year. 

The future of digital transformation & globalization of services

Overall, digital transformation is set to keep molding the modern world beyond the changes we’ve witnessed already. In fact, 2020 might be the most critical year yet. According to the Digital Marketing Institute, it’s most agencies’ last chance to get their foothold in strategy, acquisition, and global expansion before their competitors catch up. And the globalization of services will have the greatest impact on all of this. 

The impact of globalization on service industry 

On a practical level, the globalization of services often looks like a team of remote workers that project managers are tasked with uniting. Virtual teams can be excellent for increasing productivity, providing better overall service, and improving profit margins. But they come with their own unique challenges. For example, you may run into communication issues ranging from lost emails to cultural differences that leave things lost in translation. Plus the whole process tends to get messy when brands only rely on video calls and virtual chat rooms to get things done. 

Still, the prize is worth the pain. And because the pros resulting from the impact of globalization on the service industry dramatically outweigh the cons, it makes sense why this trend will continue to grow. Here’s what else you can expect in the coming year. 

3 ways globalization of services will affect agencies in 2020

There’s plenty of evidence to support the claim that global trade in services is growing faster than goods. In fact, services now account for about three-quarters of economic activity in advanced countries such as the EU and the U.S. Also, existing global trade and value chains are already pretty reliant on services, a trend we should see more of in the near future. 

In light of all this, here’s what to expect from this international phenomenon this coming year as well as some practical ways agencies can anticipate or work with these changes. 

1. Teams will become more distributed. 

As companies continue to hire more and more remote employees, agencies will have to deal  with these related challenges. As we’ve already mentioned, communication will require better tools and systems to navigate complications like language barriers, cultural context, and even simple time zone changes. 

Then there’s the question of managing functions that are relocated to new regions. Our old ways of navigating complex conversations online (like sorting through messy email chains) isn’t necessarily productive for remote teams who miss out on those important face-to-face interactions. 

That’s not to say it isn’t possible – remote teams can still communicate well enough to offer some of the best services for agencies (often at better rates with higher quality deliverables). But our communication and project management strategies will need to evolve with our changing business structures if we want to maintain consistent output before, during, and after every transition. 

This ultimately means that aligning people, work, and clients into one comprehensive and fluid process will require more from us in 2020 than it did in the past. 

How to prepare: The best way to create seamless experiences for both your in-house and remote teams is to facilitate better communication across departments, channels, and continents. 

To do this, you’ll need to create some ground rules and guidelines. How will your employees interact? Where will their interactions take place? And who’s in charge of managing these interactions? 

Start by taking a good, hard look at your current system. Evaluate whether or not it has worked well in the past (this should be obvious from project notes and reporting) and how you think it can help your growing team in the future.

You might find that you’re using a lot of different tools at once. If that’s the case, communication experts suggest assigning different purposes to each of your dedicated channels. For example, you can save emails for one-on-one project conversations between upper management and Slack for more personal chit chat, coordinating meetings, and other quick exchanges. 

Or, if you’d like to simplify things further, brands have found great success with managing teams all over the world through a collaborative work management software like Wrike

2. Small businesses will add authenticity to larger brands. 

In addition to team distribution, globally expanding agencies will also look towards smaller businesses to help them provide more authentic, original, and unique work that appeals to new target markets. 

Whether it’s through partnerships with region-specific brands or hiring graphic designers from a particular city, adding a new perspective to your services is a very attractive option for drawing in more consumers who value it. 

And because there’s a possibility that globalization will soon reach its peak attractiveness with consumers, supporting family-owned or independent work is a win for your products and services as well as your audience at large. It’s one of Forbes’ anticipated communication industry trends for 2020 for reason! 

Unfortunately, this trend isn’t as simple as collaborating with small businesses just to do it. These partnerships will need to be strategic, especially if your agency doesn’t yet have a foothold in this area. From brand alignment to reputation to your specific campaign goals, finding authenticity through these more down-to-earth companies will require some trial and error. 

In this short video, Doddle Founder Tim Robinson offers insight into the ways in which these types of relationships are mutually beneficial. From his perspective as a small business owner, the globalization of services requires big businesses to be more innovative than they ever have before. Which is exactly where companies like his come in. Start-ups and smaller brands need to be bold and have their fingers on the pulse of their particular niche in order to survive. With the support of larger global agencies, these partners gain more exposure while sharing their cutting edge technologies, research, and methods. 

How to prepare: In order to find the best partnerships, agencies will need to consider the same things they would if they were taking on a remote employee. Why do you want to work with them in the first place? What will they get out of the exchange? What cultural or language barriers will you need to consider? 

When you do approach a particular small business, make sure you lay the groundwork by setting expectations. Define what your goals are, what goals you’ll help them accomplish, and who’s responsible for what. 

This guide on small business partnerships offers some more helpful tips. But the most important thing to take away from all this is the understanding that globalization will require agencies to think big and small at the same time if they plan to keep their content as authentic as possible during their expansion phase. 

3. Localization will become a priority for consumers. 

Along the same lines as small business partnerships, agencies will need to consider how they plan to incorporate localization into their globalization of services strategy for the new year and beyond. To do this, you’ll have to get to know these new clients better and solve their problems all while communicating more effectively in order to make them feel both seen and heard. 

In fact, it has been said that localization is a key driver for personalizing eCommerce and marketing experiences. Not only does it drive sales, it also helps set your agency apart from competitors and improve long term customer relationships. Plus, experts note that effective localization is actually a foundational must-have for businesses looking to globalize in the near future. 

But this can be challenging for international businesses, especially if the location you’re targeting is new to your agency. Relating to customers in entirely different countries or regions requires a user-centric approach, copious amounts of consumer research, and the right tools to pull it all off. Without this initial investment, localization isn’t worthwhile for agencies in the long run. 

It’s also important for agencies to remember everything that localization entails. Yes, your messaging will need to be tailored to the cultural, political, and linguistic preferences of this new segment. But you’ll also need to consider the following factors: 

  • What channels will be best for reaching new leads in this area?
  • Which of your primary campaign messages will appeal to this audience on a fundamental level?
  • How do you want your target market to perceive your brand?
  • What value can you provide this unique group and how will you communicate that value? 
  • What digital platforms will you need to add or subtract when marketing to this area? 
  • What languages will your website and basic tools need to be translated into for consumers? 
  • Which of your CTAs will grab their attention the most and what are the best methods for grabbing this particular audience's attention? 

How to prepare: The most efficient international businesses support localization by developing a process that answers all of these questions and more. First and foremost, you have to clearly define each region and each audience segment within each region. They’re preferences, needs, and interests might vary greatly or largely stay the same from place to place. The important thing is that you verify your assumptions with data before you continue to market in this area. 

Next, you’ll need to cherry-pick which of your properties will need digital translation. Are all of your landing pages, YouTube videos, and eBooks suited for this audience? Chances are you’ll want to create new materials anyway. But there are plenty of opportunities to use pre-existing materials if they align with your overall vision. You’ll just have to keep your team on the same page about all of this as you make your content decisions. 

Then, you’ll have to facilitate cross-departmental communication. A dedicated localization manager is very useful at this point. He or she can coordinate project timelines, tasks, and questions. They can even provide quality control and help their colleagues prioritize deadlines if they have more than one localization project in the works. 

And, to keep their teams mostly autonomous, they’ll also need to set up a workflow that essentially streamlines the entire process. Even without extra meetings, translators, or emails, all of the teams and individuals working on the same localization project should be able to know what’s going on at all times without too much extra hand holding. 

Getting your agency ready for these 2020 globalization trends

Here are some things to keep in mind how the globalization of services will affect agencies in the coming year:

  • Strategic partnerships with small businesses are a must. As long as the relationship is mutually beneficial, they can provide agencies with a better understanding of certain demographics as well as how to appeal to them in genuine ways. 
  • Localization requires strategy. The right resources, teams, and workflows will help facilitate these transitions as your agency expands into new areas. 
  • Communication is key. Whether it’s between you and teams in different regions or all over the world, being able to keep everyone on the same page will require agencies to adapt. There are certain tools and structures you can put into place ahead of this transition. 

If you’re interested in adopting a tool that can help your agency globalize your services through more streamlined partnerships, efficient localization projects, and better overall communication, check out Wrike’s free trial

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