Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

When global marketplace diversity crosses the boundaries of custom, culture and legal norms

This is a fourth installment in a series I have been posting in Business Strategy and Operations, (see postings 160-162.) And as I said at the end of Part 3, I am shifting back here from a focus on the individual business, to consideration of the overall marketplace. But I want to start here by noting a detail I added to Part 2 that may have looked fairly insignificant in that context. I was briefly outlining a few details concerning an ultra-large food coop I am involved with and I noted that its membership is “varied, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic.” When you look to the online marketplace and to the global marketplace that it potentially aligns with, diversity in consumer preferences and expectations and culturally and religiously based biases and needs prevail. Our differences that shape what goes into our shopping carts and what stays out predominate.

These differences may appear to balance out when you simply limit your analysis to consideration of broad based and global demographics, but they can be starkly significant even at the national and larger regional levels. Consider the futility of trying to online market pork products in the Middle East.

I find myself thinking through the logic behind:

• Friedman, Thomas L. (2007) The World Is Flat: a brief history of the 21st century. Farrar, Straus and Giroux

as I write this, noting that even globally ubiquitous marketplace access does not necessarily affect marketplace preferences and certainly where they are deeply, culturally based. The world may be flattening, but we as individuals, and we as ethnically and culturally distinctive consumers in effect create and maintain our own wrinkles in that, and wrinkles that mesh with and support our preferences and wishes. And with that in mind I turn back to marketplace diversity and marketplace granularity.

• Whether you consider bricks and mortar or online businesses and marketplaces, in the real world marketplace diversity and granularity will never be homogeneously and universally distributed – as long as we as individuals show patterns of diversity in our preferences and as long as we group and assemble with likeminded, culturally and ethnically similar others.

Businesses face distinct and significant pressures to streamline their inventories according to sales flow, as discussed earlier in this series. We as consumers with our diversity in needs and preferences place pressures on them to both diversify and limit inventory – and in very complex ways that can become crucially important to business success, and certainly:

• In complex, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic neighborhoods for local bricks and mortar businesses, and
• In the always complex, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic diversity of the overall global marketplace.

And businesses need to both manage inventory and market it with this diversity in mind. But many businesses approach online marketing as if the world was completely homogeneous and flat, or at least as if they could sell to it as if it were.

I began this series noting a feedback comment and question from the owner of an online pharmacy. The area of concern that this reader focused on began and ended with the user interface they would market through and that their potential customers would shop through, and I decided to step back to consider a larger, more comprehensive part of the transaction process – and the dynamics that shape it. I also decided to approach the questions raised as they would apply to a much wider range of businesses and business models. As general principles:

• Develop your web site back end online technology to query site visitors as to type of platform, operating system and browser or other connectivity channel they are using and offer content formatted and displayed to meet their viewing capabilities.
• Back this up with options buttons or links for site visitor selection, for typeface size, etc.
• Keep your pages and viewer screens simple and easy to use and navigate.
• But behind all of this know your customers and the wrinkles they add to our flattening world and manage your inventory and other back-end operations accordingly, so you can offer the right content, marketing it in the right way.

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