How to work with marketing data across international borders

Published Jun 25 2024 4 minute read Last updated Jun 25 2024
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  • Sean Dougherty
    Written by Sean Dougherty

    A copywriter at Funnel, Sean has more than 15 years of experience working in branding and advertising (both agency and client side). He's also a professional voice actor.

Today’s marketplace is extremely competitive with success often balancing on a knife’s edge. For many businesses, particularly within the tech space, winning requires a (literal) global approach. The problem is that, even if you have the means to reach potential customers around the world, it can be quite challenging to work with marketing data across international boundaries. 

From compliance issues to currency differences, navigating these complexities requires a deep understanding of various factors that influence how data can be collected, stored and used. So, how do the best marketers pull it off? 

The landscape of international marketing data

No two locales are exactly alike. However, there are a few main challenges that are likely to present themselves to ambitious marketing trying to expand their business empire. These key challenges include:

  • Compliance with data protection regulations
  • Managing currency differences
  • Data localization requirements
  • Cultural and linguistic barriers
  • Technological disparities

Compliance with data protection regulations

One of the most formidable challenges in handling international marketing data is compliance with differing data protection regulations. Each country or region has its own set of laws governing data privacy and security, and businesses must navigate this complex legal landscape to avoid hefty fines and penalties.

Europe’s General Data Protection Rule (GDPR) is one of the most stringent data protection regulations globally. It mandates strict consent requirements for data collection, data minimization and robust data protection measures. Non-compliance can result in fines of up to 4% of annual global turnover or €20 million, whichever is higher.

Meanwhile, the California Consumer Privacy Act aims to give California residents the right to know what personal data is being collected about them and how it is used. It also provides rights to access, delete, and opt-out of the sale of their personal data. Companies must ensure they comply with these requirements when dealing with data from California. However, the data of non-California residents of the United States aren’t necessarily afforded the same rights — adding further complexity. 

It can be tricky, but with advanced planning and a solid data governance framework, you can build processes that ensure the proper compliance across the various jurisdictions you market within. 

Managing currency differences

Once you’ve set up the proper policies to make sure you’re following all the various compliance rules to a tee, you’ll need to know how much you're spending and earning. That means currency conversion. 

And while we wish it was just a matter of adding simple formulas to your spreadsheets, it is a bit more complicated. Exchange rates can fluctuate from day to day. Luckily, there are tools like Funnel that gather your international cost data and normalize it against the currency you report in. 

Differences in currency can also reflect and necessitate different pricing strategies. In some countries, the cost of your goods and services may represent a larger chunk of budget than others. Let’s look at an example. 

A sneaker brand sells the same pair of high tops in the US (its home market) and Brazil. After accounting for freight shipping, import taxes and other fees, the sneakers may be actually much less affordable for Brazilian shoppers than American ones. As a marketer, you’ll need to account for that either in lower overall sales expectations, slimmer profit margins or a combination of both. 

Data localization requirements

Beyond data privacy compliance, businesses also need to ensure they are following applicable data localization laws, which require data to be stored within a country’s borders. These regulations are often put in place for national security reasons, though they can mean higher costs for businesses entering a given market. 

In order to abide by these laws, some firms may need to invest in local data centers and infrastructure. For marketers, this can pose a significant challenge and actually create data silos.

Cultural and linguistic barriers

Rules and currencies are two problems international marketers face, but cultural and language barriers can throw up an entirely new set of challengers. 

Performance data from local apps and platforms may not readily translate into your preferred business language. In these instances, it’s best to find a partner or piece of technology that can handle this sort of data transformation automatically (hint: Funnel is great for this). 

Additionally, regions within an economic area may have different cultural views around data and how businesses handle it. 

Let’s look at Europe as a prime example. The EU is governed on a broad scale by GDPR. However, Germans (somewhat notoriously) are very guarded about their private data. The result is that it can be challenging to make certain analyses or implement geo-targeting as precisely as in other EU member nations. 

Technological disparities

You can’t guarantee every digital experience or interaction with your brand will be exactly the same across the different regions and countries you promote yourself within. Sure, you’ll aim for consistency, but even things like internet quality, device usage and digital literacy will vary by location. 

To stay on the German theme for a bit, it is often very challenging to maintain a fast, reliable internet connection across the country. In fact, about 38% Germans report a daily struggle with slow or disrupted internet service every day. However, Berlin boasts some of the fastest connection in Europe.

That may lead you to believe Berlin is a bit more modern across their daily life. Then, you may be surprised to find out that many Berlin businesses don’t accept credit cards. It’s almost completely a cash only economy.

Head north across the Baltic Sea to Sweden, and you’ll find the exact opposite: many businesses avoid physical currency. The point is, you’ll need to do your research to understand the technical norms and limitations of your intended international markets in order to meet customers’ expectations and needs. 

Back your passports and make a plan

In a globalized economy, marketing your goods and services internationally can seem unavoidable. This brings new challenges and complexities to your marketing operations. The key thing to remember is that making a plan ahead of time can save you a lot of headaches later down the road. 

By implementing robust data governance frameworks, solid processes and using tools that help take the guesswork out of the equation, you can start selling worldwide with confidence. And remember, when it comes to international marketing data, Funnel can help you to make the most out of your reporting and analysis. 

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