What Your Organization Can Learn from Apple's Trillion Dollar Market Valuation
Apple recently made headlines as it became the first U.S. firm to achieve a market value of a trillion dollars. Why didn’t companies such as Microsoft – once Apple’s fiercest competitor – beat it to the punch? Apple’s resounding success is in part due to its long-standing commitment to excellent internationalization that has allowed it to meet local market expectations since the early 1980’s.
Steve Jobs and his crew were never ones to simply overlay a translated user interface onto a product and call it localized. To them, It meant re-envisioning and adapting products – and services and programs – to meet and even surpass local market preferences and practices. They did the hard work early on to support character sets and other required infrastructure to meet what audiences expected in markets like Japan. Unlike many of their competitors forty years ago, they viewed going global as much more than a linguistic exercise.
Therefore, when “emerging” consumers “emerged” with the money to spend on aspirational products, Apple was ready – not only with products and platforms, but with pre-sales, marketing, post-sales, manufacturing, and logistics support in local languages through local teams. This business process globalization was in place way before the iPhone with products such as the PowerBook, the iMac, and the iPod. Based on this localized ecosystem, people worldwide were prepared to pay premium prices far above those Apple itself charged due to import taxes and other locally imposed fees.
What can organizations learn from Apple’s commitment to internationalization?
Few companies will ever develop the “cool cachet” with generation after generation of consumers that Apple has attained. However, there are lessons to be learned from its decision to adopt global as one of its core strategic tenets across all teams. Here are four of them:
- Treat your home market as one market among many. No company can depend on its home audience forever in terms of revenue, talent, or new product and service ideas. If your executives and upper managers still haven’t figured this out, work with them to develop an enterprise-wide strategy to change their perspective to one that encourages teams to deliver sooner – rather than later – on international commitments.
- Recognize language as just one small component in your overall globalization strategy. Focus instead on the deeper cultural adaptations that may be required to put your offerings on par or above those offered by local competitors. Apple’s 2016 release of Garage Band in China is a great example of “localization beyond localization” in which it engineered new ways of interacting with virtual instruments to mimic local musical scales and playing styles.
- Back up what you sell with globalized infrastructure. Apple wouldn’t have reached its trillion dollar milestone without business process globalization throughout its operations. That means the same good internationalization hygiene for supply chains, pricing, and customer support as for products, services, and programs. What Apple has excelled at is maintaining globalized business processes in synch with its localized offerings.
- Prepare for local copycats that innovate over time. If you’re really good at what you do, people will imitate and then innovate on what you supply to their local audiences. Integrate this known fact into your global strategic planning so that you’re not caught off-guard and outflanked early on during international expansion by formidable local competitors.
Organizations don’t have to implement product internationalization or business process globalization from day one. However, they do need to take these areas into account in all strategic planning initiatives – even if it is simply to officially postpone them until a later date in their evolution. When the time comes, many, if not all, teams enterprise-wide will be required to do their part. Recognizing that these areas exist at the strategic level encourages managers to start thinking sooner about the role of their teams in supporting local markets, which can only be a good thing.
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