Lessons from #thealignment: unlocking your next million users

Last week, we had the pleasure of seeing four incredible individuals debate the best way to unlock your next million users abroad. This is our widest-ever lens on #thealignment, and it's a testament to our guests that they were able to wrestle with the subject matter and produce extremely valuable insight.

Here's five things I learned from the last episode of the alignment. 

1. Your product is born global. Act like it 

Today products and websites are now “born global” rather than self-consciously launched in new markets. If you have a website, if you're launched in a global market, you fall into this category. 

Your strategy has to change to match – and our first guest, Nataly Kelly, Chief Growth Officer at Rebrandly, offered some strategic thinking about how. 

“Intensification” is the presence of “intensifying” your existing presence in a given market. The approach relies on looking and listening – identifying why your product might be working for different groups of users and not others, and doubling down on those factors. 

Nataly also suggested that everything down to org structure should be affected by the implications of “born global” products.

“One way you can fix natural biases and diversify your perception of user value is to change who you hire on your own team,” argued Nataly. By having more diverse teams, you’ll be better equipped to identify, empathize with, and serve, your non-domestic users.

(You can read Nataly Kelly's book here

2. Pick markets to deliver on really well 

The “look-and-listen” part of intensification is something all the panellists agreed on.

👉 Nataly cautioned about businesses responding to market pull signals without thinking their product experience all the way through.

👉 Diego Santos, Director of Product in payments at Mastercard, talked about achieving “critical mass” in different markets; and how it can be important to target that critical mass as a strategic objective. 

👉 James Atkin, Senior CS manager at Global App Testing, talked about how testing and focus should not be applied equally. “It’s often much cheaper to retain a monopoly than it is to get a toehold in a random market. So not only does each additional percent of market growth have an exponential impact or effect on your ability to hold that market.”

The implications of this, explained James, is that businesses working with GAT run their testing strategies very differently in different parts of the world. Some businesses test “extensively” to a minimum quality standard everywhere; but many businesses also test “intensively” to try to get to a higher standard of UX in key markets, drive a seriously competitive product, and deliver local advantage.

(You can read the other QA techniques James suggested to drive global growth opportunities here.) 

3. Competition is increasing, so make it easy or lose users

One of the themes throughout this episode is that just as your product is everywhere; so is a larger choice of products are available to individuals. Just as it’s easier for you to reach more users, the market will be more competitive to attract those users. 

But one “basic” way that businesses fall down is not making it easy for users, argued Alessandra Binazzi. She used the examples of ASICS using local payment contexts in Japan, and Pinnacle opening up more payment options to drive local adoption.

Too often, businesses respond to local pull signals without thinking through the entrie product experience for that market and significant areas like preferred payments can go unaddressed. 

83% of consumers have abandoned cart due to an arduous sign-up or login processes, particularly within APAC, according to Auth0 and YouGov.

4. Find a local network for your product 

One way to think about your next million users is to think about local network effects, argued Diego Santos, Product Director at Mastercard.

In product teams, when trying to drive adoption, businesses often focus on “killer features”. But these are expensive to produce and market.

One cheaper and more effective way to drive local adoption is to think about existing local networks and piggyback onto them. The “critical mass” referred to earlier is so often a “network effect”, the effect by which a product or service becomes more valuable as it accrues more users. And this technique can be a shortcut to get there.

For example, in Saudi Arabia, mastercard partnered with a local card network called Mada, quickly establishing 25 million users and generating the local network effect they needed to compete as a card network. Similarly, Disney Plus partnered with O2 in the UK in order to give O2 users access to Disney Plus and kickstart the channel. 

Today, Disney Plus has more UK subscribers than Netflix. 

5. It's possible to improve your translation quality right now 

David McNamee, an Enterprise Solutions Architect at Phrase, spoke about how local product experiences are likely to improve with tooling breakthroughs. Asked how tooling could help generate the next million users, David said: 

“It’s about providing quality… whether it’s quality assurance which is committed faster because LLMs are an interesting judge of translation quality, or in some cases, they do a better job of traditional translation than traditional tools”  – the quality experience of individual users will be higher, argued David.

It seems likely that with more powerful and sophisticated tooling, the cost of localizing a product or content will come down. That therefore, between standardized and personalized product experiences, the needle will move in favour of localization. 


Iteration has been shown to build better software products wherever you are. But iteration is about responsiveness and fidelity to customer needs. The question becomes “iteration for whom?”

AI is bringing down the cost of software and translation production; and global delivery is becoming easier meaning that products are born global in the first place. The cost reduction will make for products which are competitive in more localized ways. It seems like the challenge to be solved is how to get closer to global user.