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Why is culture important when creating usable e-commerce websites?

The correlation between web usability and ecommerce is of greater significance as more companies from the developed world, seek to expand their operations into emerging markets.

According to internet usage data published by Nielsen//NetRatings, during the year 2015, 37.4% of the world’s e-commerce activity took place in the Asian market, followed by North America with a 31.7.9%, Europe with a 25.9% and Latin America with 6.3 %. Nevertheless, in the year 1996 most of the ecommerce activity took place in North America with 83% of the world total.

It is clear then, that the largest growth in e-commerce transactions occurred in emerging economies that are also more diverse in terms of cultural identity.

Similarly, with the overall growth of ecommerce business transactions in emerging markets, many companies are adapting their web sites to “local” versions. Such adaptation means a specific web design for each market niche that takes into account language and cultural context, preserving at the same the brand integrity.

For example, some studies explain that culturally adapted web sites crafted for each specific market reduce users’ cognitive efforts to process web information, making navigation easier and improving consumers’ attitudes toward the goods and services offered in such ecommerce site.

Why most companies are not adapting their ecommerce websites to each specific market?

The high costs of testing cultural-tailored websites, the obstacles to find key ethnographic elements that effectively contribute to the site’s visual layout and the propensity to cultural ambiguity are some of the reasons why most companies are reluctant to implement culturally adapted ecommerce websites. For instance, in nations such as China and India, the large number of languages and the different connotations images have in each region, may induce designers and web developers to make mistakes in the interpretation of cultural elements.

Even though the above mentioned issues can deter some companies to adapt their websites design to the cultural identity of each specific market, when companies undertake a comprehensive cultural analysis strategy, their ecommerce websites will become more profitable increasing at the same time, users’ satisfaction levels.

The local web

Why our societies are technologically deterministic?

Technological determinism is a reductionist theory that explains how society’s structure and cultural values are driven by technology. This concept, has gained relevance in the last two decades since most of the basic human social skills such as meeting new people or fostering existing bonds of friendship, have become activities highly mediated by technology.

According to some technology analysts and the companies that develop social network platforms, these technologies are effective tools that help to resolve the subjective necessity of promoting friendship or to seek new relationships. Their main argument states that people’s lack of time, society’s cultural changes, people’s new life styles and the growth of the migratory flows, have triggered the use of these social networks.

However, other authors claim that factors such as the lack of a real communicative interaction beyond virtual platforms, the low levels of trust created in online relationships and the e-commerce interface of the “matchmaking apps” for example, have created a technology with multiple flaws that can hardly address such social needs.

We are consumed by a technological deterministic rhetoric.

Considering the above mentioned arguments, some relevant questions might help us to put the concept of technological determinism into context:

  • Should we assume a neutral point of view on the social, economic and cultural changes, social networking technologies are creating in our societies?
  • Should we be more critical about the implications social networking technologies might have in our daily lives and in the way we construct our relationships with other people using such technologies?
  • Are societies aware that the development of these technologies happens because societies organize themselves to give support and expand these technologies once they have been introduced?
  • Are companies such as Facebook, Apple and Google delivering a technological deterministic discourse that leads us to believe that their technological developments have positive effects on society inherent to themselves?

determinismo tecnologico


Is Twitter a viable business?

Since its foundation in 2006, Twitter became one of the most useful tools companies have to communicate with their customers. By the year 2014, Twitter was the second most used social network service by companies in several markets.

However, different technology analysts have expressed their concerns about Twitter business viability due to current financial issues that are undermining investors’ trust in the future of the company.

In the year 2012, Twitter had 500 million subscribers who wrote an average of 340 million “tweets” per day. Most of the traffic is generated in highly globalized markets such as the United States (40%), Japan (23%), Spain (7%), England (6%) etc. That same year, Twitter search engine made 1.6 billion searches each day.

Yet, in the year 2015, eight years after its foundation, Twitter Inc. had not yet reached a break-even point (BEP) or the point at which cost or expenses and revenue are equal, even though for the same year the opportunity costs had been paid and capital has received the risk-adjusted expected return.

Twitter financial uncertainty 

Although, Twitter financial statements show annual profits, the uncertainty about its future as profitable business is still unclear. For instance, in the fiscal year 2013, Twitter’s net revenue were US $400 million, its shareholders investments during the same period was US $ 1.16 billion and its brand value was about US$ 8 trillion. Such numbers have made many financial analysts to believe that the company is highly overvalued.

It is important to remember that Twitter’s main source of income is the sale of advertisement spaces within their site platform and the sale of the so-called “promoted tweets”. Therefore investors might be asking:

  • Should Twitter Inc. implement a business model that can help to increase the company’s profits? What alternatives can Twitter Inc. explore in order to improve its business efficiency from a financial point?
  • Which managerial strategies that have been used by other internet social networking service companies’ and that have proved to be successful, could Twitter Inc. undertake as an opportunity to redirect their financial statements?
  • Are Twitter Inc. future financial goals unattainable in the highly competed market of internet social networking services? Should Twitter Inc. consider the possibility of a business “take over” by other technology companies such as Facebook Inc. or Google Inc. in order to survive?