Web Globalization Best Practices for Life Sciences

Life sciences companies, as one of the most regulated industries in the world, face unique challenges in going global. Every country or region presents not only linguistic and cultural challenges, but a myriad of legal obstacles. And given the life-and-death nature of the text, such as dosage instructions, there is little room for mistranslation.

Yet despite the risks, these companies are pushing beyond their borders – and for good reason. According to Deloitte, emerging markets are outpacing developed markets in growth opportunities for the life sciences industry, with Asia projected to grow at 6.6% compared to Western Europe at 1.4%. The rewards to successful globalization are significant.

website globalization

Source: Deloitte Life Sciences Outlook (Copyright © 2016 Deloitte Development LLC)

Identifying the best global websites

Unfortunately, as life sciences companies have broadened their global sights, their global (and mobile) websites have not always kept pace, or exhibit commonly made mistakes in website globalization

I recently studied 25 life sciences companies according to web globalization best practices for a report sponsored by SDL: Web Globalization Leaders in Life Sciences. Websites were given scores according to these four categories:

  1. Global Reach (Languages): Content must be available in the user’s native language.
  2. Global/Mobile Architecture: In order to efficiently take a website global, it must be designed to ensure that it balances global consistency with local flexibility. In addition to global consistency, the website should be responsive or adaptive, so that it is optimized for mobile devices.
  3. Localization & Social: Content should be localized for the user’s country and culture.
  4. Global Navigation: Local content should be easy to find, no matter where the user is located or what language he or she speaks.

Based on this methodology, here are the websites ranked by total score:

  • Bayer
  • Merck
  • Medtronic
  • Abbvie
  • Astra Zeneca
  • Sanofi
  • Baxter
  • Pfizer
  • Smith & Nephew
  • Bristol-Myers Squibb
  • Amgen
  • Becton Dickinson
  • Johnson & Johnson/Janssen
  • Eli Lilly
  • Abbott
  • Edwards Life Sciences
  • Fresenius
  • Sciex
  • Boston Scientific
  • Perkin Elmer
  • Jude Medical
  • Hill-Rom
  • Beckman Coulter
  • Stryker
  • Gilead Sciences

Balancing languages and localization

The following exhibit provides a perspective on how these 25 companies compare across two key metrics – localization and number of languages supported. The goal here is to illustrate those companies that excel in both global reach and content localization.

website globalization

The top-right quadrant is where you ultimately want your company to reside. Currently, only Bayer, Merck, Pfizer and Sanofi occupy this quadrant – with room for growth in both languages and localization.

Languages alone do not equate to successful localization

Your website does not need to support a large number of languages to be successful at localization. As seen in the exhibit, there are a number of companies that may not lead in languages, but do an average to above-average job of content localization: Edwards, Smith & Nephew, Baxter, Johnson & Johnson/Janssen, Medtronic and Fresenius.

A successful global website strategy strikes a balance between depth of localized content and global reach.

The web globalization leader: Bayer

Bayer emerged on top not because the website excels in any one area, but because it is above average across all categories. It is tied with Merck in languages – and well ahead of most other life sciences companies in this regard.

web globalization

The global and country websites are largely consistent in look and feel, and the design adapts to different screen sizes.

Bayer is one of a handful of websites to incorporate social feeds onto the home page. Here is an excerpt from the Brazil website:

web globalization

Bayer’s global gateway is well positioned in the header, but there is room for improvement.

The country names are not in the local languages, and it’s not completely clear which menu users should use.

web globalization

At a minimum, Bayer should add a globe icon to highlight the global gateway and take users to a dedicated global gateway menu that requires no scrolling, along the lines of the gateway menus used by Amgen or Janssen shown here:

web globalization

Global gateway aside, the Bayer website represents a significant investment in web globalization and global standardization.

Life sciences lags in global reach

Based on an annual study of the websites of more than 150 leading global brands, the average number of languages has risen over the years to 30. This means that four companies have equaled or surpassed this average: Merck, Bayer, Sanofi, and AstraZeneca.

The average number of languages supported by the websites in this report is just 18, which means that the life sciences industry as a whole must invest further in translation to meet the growing expectations of users around the world.

web globalization

Life Sciences: No longer an unsocial industry

Given the regulated environments that life sciences companies operate under, it is understandable that social platforms present a high degree of risk. And, for years, many companies simply elected to sit out of the social revolution.

Today, the tide has turned. Though not all companies support social networks to a large degree, a few companies have gone so far as to incorporate social feeds into their home pages.

And a few others, such as Pfizer, have begun to support language-specific social feeds. Shown here is an excerpt from the German home page:

web globalization