Culture is a notoriously difficult term to define. In 1870 the anthropologist Tyler defined culture as ‘…that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom, and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.’

Mobile messaging has undoubtedly become a habit for most of us – an unshakable one at that. The internet and new messaging tools such as chat apps have provided us with an unprecedented level of interaction with other people from other cultural and social groups. And cell phones, helping to bring people together like never before, are owned by more globally than those who have a toothbrush. That’s over 5 billion people.

Not all devices are built equal though and how people actually use them and regard them differs markedly across the globe. All this impacts our world of mobile messaging.

Think closer to home and you’ll know people who are glued to their mobile devices 24/7 and possibly others who view these things as more or a necessary evil. One thing holds true for all though: a mobile channel such as SMS drives fantastic engagement and has the ability, all things being equal, of delivering content accurately and rapidly across the world to all types of users. Except things are not equal.

Money impacts the choice of mobile device (and thus access to certain types of mobile channels) for a start. But a few years ago, smartphone ownership was a distant dream for billions of people. Now, with some smartphones being offered at a price point of $50 or lower, the number of global smartphone users is projected to total 3.5 billion come the end of 2020 (source: Oberlo).

Messaging platforms, from email and SMS to mobile chat apps, have to be diverse and span the spectrum of B2C, B2B and also business-to-employee communications. Things can soon get challenging when communicating with people in different cultural settings. Knowledge and experience are required. Take France.

If you receive a text with just an ‘A+’, it’s easy to assume it means something akin to ‘great.’ This actually represents the French words ‘a plus tard,’meaning ‘see you later.’ Every culture has explicit and implicit communication practices that can be very difficult for anybody else to comprehend. Context is also important.

High-context cultures like Japan and the Middle East tend to be collectivist. Building relationships there takes time and texting is viewed as a much more personal way of communicating than email, but only after having initially met. Lower context cultures such as Europe and North America are more inclined to texting straight away.

Texting (whether SMS or chat apps) has informal origins but given it is now used for a lot of Application-to-Person interactions, care must be taken to strike the right balance of formality. The demographic being targeted has a huge role to play in this. In many countries, Millennials (Generation Y) lean more positively towards being addressed by their first name than say an octogenarian would. Also, group chat and emoticons are much more popular in Asia than in North America. We could go on…

No matter the size and reach of your organization, it is crucial to operate with a local perspective; a cookie-cutter approach across multiple cultures no longer cuts it, no matter the strength of your brand.

Personalization is a crucial element in mobile engagement today but before even thinking about that, cultural differences (and all possible resulting impacts on mobile engagement effectiveness) need to be taken into account. This is where Mitto’s years of international experience come in, helping to smooth the paths to your markets globally.