Cross border experimentation … Do you take culture into consideration for you experimentation program?

As companies grow and expand internationally, an important layer of consideration is often overlooked: culture

To run successful experiments, it’s crucial to take culture into account. Otherwise, more experiments are likely to fail.

So, how can you integrate culture into your experimentation process? One way is by considering the six dimensions of culture according to the Hofstede culture compass.

  1. Power Distance
  2. Individualism
  3. Masculinity
  4. Uncertainty Avoidance
  5. Long Term Orientation
  6. Indulgence

Let’s take a closer look at each dimension.

The six dimensions of Hofstede

The Hofstede Culture Compass is a tool developed by Dutch social psychologist Geert Hofstede to help individuals and organizations better understand cultural differences. It is based on six cultural dimensions that can be used to compare and contrast different societies. These dimensions include power distance, individualism vs. collectivism, masculinity vs. femininity, uncertainty avoidance, long-term orientation vs. short-term orientation, and indulgence vs. restraint. By understanding these dimensions, we can gain insight into how different cultures operate and what motivates their behavior.

Power Distance

Power Distance describes how much a society values and accepts social inequality and hierarchy. In high power distance cultures, there is a clear distinction between those who hold power and those who don’t. In low power distance cultures, people tend to value equality more.

Example: In a high power distance culture, it may be effective to have clear authority figures and elaborate descriptions of products or services to convey legitimacy and expertise.

Individualism vs Collectivism

Individualism describes how much emphasis a society places on individual achievement versus group harmony. Cultures that score high on individualism value independence and personal success, while collectivist societies prioritize group cohesiveness and cooperation.

Example: In an individualistic culture, marketing messages could focus on personal advantages that customers gain from using specific products or services. In more collectivist cultures, marketing tactics should emphasize the positive impact of their choices on their communities or families.

Masculinity vs Femininity

Masculinity describes the extent to which stereotypical masculine or feminine traits are valued by a culture. In masculine cultures, qualities such as ambition, competition, and assertiveness are highly prized, while feminine cultures tend to value qualities like caring for others and quality of life.

Example: In more masculine cultures, highlighting competitive pricing structures may resonate better with consumers compared to promoting convenience-focused messages which might be better received in feminized cultures.

Uncertainty Avoidance

Uncertainty Avoidance measures a society’s tolerance for ambiguity or unpredictability. High uncertainty avoidance cultures tend to have strict rules and norms in place to avoid risk and promote stability, while low uncertainty avoidance societies tend to be more comfortable with change.

Example: Websites catering more toward users having high levels of uncertainty avoidance could benefit from having well-defined procedures through which customers can purchase goods or follow-up after sales are completed.

Long-Term Orientation vs Short-Term Orientation

Long-Term Orientation reflects a culture’s time horizon and priorities over time. Cultures with long-term orientation focus on preparing for the future, patience, persistence, and saving resources for later use whereas short-term oriented societies place greater emphasis on quick results.

Example: In long-term orientation cultures, emphasizing the lasting durability of products promotes assuredness in their longevity. Meanwhile, short term-focused cultures may respond better to shipping and handling promotions.

Indulgence vs Restraint

Indulgence explains how much freedom is given when it comes to fulfilling personal desires rather than curbing them based moral norms or religious beliefs which is what restraint-oriented societies do.

Example: More indulgent cultures might appreciate reward programs or loyalty bonuses offered.


For instance, let’s compare Germany and the Netherlands, two countries that may appear quite similar.

Germany scores high on masculinity compared to the Netherlands. This means that while the Dutch value work-life balance, Germans prioritize competition, achievement, and success.

Therefore, for German companies, adding awards, trust badges, and client logos from well-known companies may have more impact than in the Netherlands, where focus on experience and brand values may be more effective.

International experiments

When running experiments across international websites, it’s crucial to take culture into account. If you plan to run the same experiment across all versions of your website, consider the six dimensions of culture and tailor your writing style accordingly. 

Tip: It’s always wise to have native speakers review your writing to ensure clarity and accuracy.

Here’s another example based on power distance (the first is with low power distance, the second with high).

Low: Company adopts flat organizational structure, promoting equality and collaboration among employees.

High: New CEO brings strict hierarchical structure to company, emphasizing clear lines of authority.

Big difference, right? Remember, cultural differences can significantly impact the success of your experimentation program. So take culture into consideration, and you’ll be on your way to running successful experiments that resonate with your target audience, no matter where they are.

Conclusion

Culture is an essential consideration in international experimentation programs, as cultural differences can significantly impact the success of experiments. To integrate culture into the experimentation process, it’s crucial to consider the six dimensions of culture according to the Hofstede culture compass: Power Distance, Individualism vs Collectivism, Masculinity vs Femininity, Uncertainty Avoidance, Long-Term Orientation vs Short-Term Orientation, and Indulgence vs Restraint. By tailoring writing styles and messaging based on these dimensions, companies can run successful experiments that resonate with their target audience, no matter where they are. Native speakers can review writing to ensure clarity and accuracy.

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