Erica Sunarjo graduated from South Texas College majoring in Marketing and Creative Writing. She used her knowledge to make a difference in the realm of business copywriting and invested heavily in traveling and language learning. Find her on LinkedIn and Facebook.
SMB’s have long thought that moving into global markets was just beyond their capabilities—that it would be too expensive, too complicated, and would involve a lot of red tapes, loads of research, and tough marketing.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, today, it is easier than ever, given the tools that are now available to smaller businesses to establish a foothold in foreign markets. And why is this? Because countries all over the globe have come to accept this new global economy, and the taxation, legal issues, and even shipping, have become far laxer.
If you have reached a plateau in your business, in terms of a customer base, and need additional markets to grow your company, then going global is probably your single option.
So how do you go about doing this?
Well, there are several strategies and tools that can make your global e-commerce goals totally reachable. Those strategies and tools revolve around three major activities—assessing market viability, developing strategies for moving into those markets, and then developing solid marketing plans to attract your target audiences in those markets.
Yes, there’s a lot of detail involved in other areas of expansion. But, for the most part, these can be handled by third parties, often at very low cost.
Let’s take a look at these three major activities.
1. Evaluating Your Opportunities
You want to pick and choose your global markets very carefully. The goal is to determine if there is a market for the product or service you are selling. Obviously, if you are selling bikinis, going into a traditional Muslim country is out of the question. And you won’t find a large market for your luxury jewelry in Nigeria. But you have to dig much deeper than this in your research, making no assumptions until you have the data to make a good decision.
There are tools available to make this job easier. You can begin with Google Trends—there is one tool that will allow you to see countries and regions which house the same demographics are your local target audience. You can also enter in keyword search terms in the target language and get a handle not just on popularity and demand, but also your competition. Another popular tool is SimilarWeb. You can actually scan in your local website and see foreign sites that sell the same products and services as you do, along with stats on use and popularity.
Still, a third avenue is to enlist the services of a native of any country you are considering. They will be able to tell you if there is a market for you and even provide you with general advice regarding modifications you might want to make, pricing, etc.
Strategies for Moving into Foreign Markets
As a small to mid-sized business, you will not be moving into several new markets all at once. Best to choose one or two of the best prospects from your research. But even if you do choose several, you will find that the details of setting this up can be much easier than they used to be. Here are some strategies and tools that will get you up and running quite quickly:
- Start with “Fulfillment by Amazon” services. Here you will partner directly with Amazon, agree to its shipping rates, and be able to transport your products to customers in the countries you have expanded into. When you do this, you need only project how much product you want to store in Amazon warehouses. Amazon tells you what is sold and where to ship it.
- Purchase discounted shipping from any number of services you can find. One great source is Easyship. It will automatically calculate the price and taxation in the target country currency.
- Use third-party services to take care of the regulations in the receiving countries. If you are using fulfillment by Amazon, then you can use services such as Pan European VAT—it will provide information on taxes and other regulations. If you are not using Amazon exclusively, there are other third-parties that will do this for you. These are details you no longer need to be bothered with, as companies did in the past.
- Use third-party services to comply with other regulations, such as registering your business in foreign countries, along with any reporting requirements, if those governments require it. It’s just too many minutiae for you to do on your own, and it’s pretty reasonable.
2. The Marketing
This is the one area in which you must be heavily involved. Of course, you can hire professional marketers, but your budget may not allow it.
You need to develop a strategy for marketing your product in foreign markets, and here are the important things you must consider:
- Multilingual websites will be critical to establish an SEO presence when your foreign audience searches for your products. If your website is fashioned through WordPress, you can use either manual or automated translation, but the manual is far preferable. Consult with some professional translation services, such as The Word Point, and get a manual translation from natives who can ensure that all of your text and visuals are culturally appropriate. (Did you know that, while an owl symbolizes wisdom in western cultures, it can be a symbol of death and evil in others?). As well, they can advise you on the keywords and keyword phrases that are the most popular in searches for your products.
- Consider explainer and how-to video clips, showing the value of your product. Scripts can be created by professional translators and even produced for you.
- Research the most popular social media platforms in your target countries and establish a presence there. Set up a long-term relationship with a single translator or service, in order to get the best pricing possible for posting on those social media platforms.
- Seek out local distributors for your products among retailers in your target countries. These partnerships can be invaluable whether they are brick and mortar stores or e-commerce sellers with good reputations. The commissions you pay will be well worth it if this strategy helps to spread your brand in that market.
The Bottom Line
Moving into foreign markets is much easier than it used to be. You no longer have to do everything yourself, and the right tools and partnerships can streamline the entire process. Going global only makes sense if you have a product that is in demand in foreign markets. Go for it!