It can feel like you’re about to leap across a mountain when you begin plans to take your business global with an expansion of your marketing, distribution, and sales activities into new, unfamiliar markets. Depending on your industry, you may be met with the task of introducing a new product line into a region that isn’t quite clear on what benefits you provide. You may be up against an established competitor who already has a solid customer base and is difficult to knock them off of their pedestal. Add to this the big question—can your existing infrastructure withstand your entry into the unknown?
This article will present the main considerations at play when initiating an international marketing, distribution, and sales expansion.
Before springing into action
It’s important to do a bit of honest soul-searching to examine where you are, where you hope to be, and what obstacles may hold you back from moving forward too quickly. Ask yourself the following:
- Are you currently using a stable and robust ecommerce platform?
- Do you have a full 360-degree view of your customer data?
- Are you seeing proven success from your existing marketing, distribution, and sales efforts? Are there any weak spots that need resolution before undertaking an expansion into new markets?
- Are there any gaps in your existing team? Do you wish to hire, or would you consider working with experienced consultants or contractors? Without a solid foundation, your staff may buckle under the weight in doing too much too soon.
- Is your IT team bogged down with constant requests for website updates or maintenance requests? Are they well-supported and working as effectively as they can?
- How do your customers rate their experience both on your site as well as in-store, if applicable? Are you delighting them at every possible touchpoint?
- How big do you wish to go? Are you looking to expand your online activities, or are you looking to explore opening new physical locations or pop-up stores as well?
Once you’ve evaluated these considerations, it’s time to give some thought to developing a plan for how to address any existing issues with how you are operating on a local and/or regional scale. This may involve bringing on experts like OSF Digital who have helped numerous brands embark on their path to global expansion.
Pursuing international marketing efforts
Beyond just translating your website into multiple languages and hoping everything will be okay, marketing your products is a complex endeavor. Factors such as respecting each country’s unique laws, taxes, and shipping requirements, as well as understanding any cultural differences that may exist are all elements to consider before taking your brand into new international markets. You’ll need to examine how to break through any language barriers and have a plan in place for addressing these requirements. It’s important to evaluate how much money you can move into your marketing efforts to support these initiatives.
Developing a marketing plan that encompasses your goals to take your business global is a vital contributor to your success. The following steps are involved when creating a sound international marketing plan:
- Conduct research: Learn all you can about the size of the market(s) you wish to move into, their various business laws, and popular marketing practices.
- Build your infrastructure: Examine what you need to either build or have built for you to help you launch internationally, including domain name registrations.
- Adapt your existing marketing plans: Consult your current strategy and examine how it can be modified to expand into new locations.
- Localization: Go beyond just translating your content, but adapt it to meet the needs and be understood by your new international audience.
- Examine and re-adapt: Plan to revisit your initial marketing strategy regularly so you can adapt it according to any unforeseen shifts in your business or the marketplace.
Distribution Beyond Borders
International distribution includes the processes and fulfilment activities that you execute to bring your products into markets outside of your existing region. It will be vital for you research the various legal requirements, customs and duty taxes, legal distribution agreements, and terms and conditions in each country where you wish to expand. Processing and fulfilling orders, as well as managing and synchronizing customer data, are vital components to be considered as part of your distribution strategy. Having effective systems in place will save you a heap of trouble.
Developing relationships with a qualified collaborator will ensure you remain on the right side of the law, aren’t losing sleep over unsurmountable issues, or, worse yet, fail without even getting started. Wise collaborators can provide you with recommendations on an effective framework that can scale with your growth. Partners like OSF have established global relationships with connections who will work to ensure your successful penetration into new markets.
World-Wide Sales Expansion
The optimal result from expanding your efforts globally is to gain increased sales revenue. Attracting new customers and securing repeat consumers will always be at the forefront of your desired achievements. Growing your sales, marketing, and service team to ensure that you’re able to satisfy shoppers on a global scale must be at the center of your plans. Developing detailed, measurable objectives for each team to achieve will help you to stay on track and weather any storm, either within your company or due to external market forces beyond your control.
Special Considerations for the APAC Region
With its large population and growing middle class now flexing their purchasing power, online commerce in Asia-Pacific is booming. This year, retail sales in this area are set to increase by 7.7% to $9.254 trillion with almost 15% or $1.365 trillion of this amount being attributed to ecommerce. It’s forecasted that by 2021 this number will double to $3 trillion, making up 25.4% of total retail sales in this area of the world!
More than ever, consumers are interested in shopping online as they become more familiar with the process, and additional shipping and fulfilment opportunities open up to further satisfy their demand for products. If you’re looking to expand your international marketing, distribution and sales activities into the APAC region, you need to be aware that this is an area made up of several unique countries, each with their own methods, cultural traditions, currencies, languages, pricing and taxation needs among many other considerations that you need to examine.
The Asian-Pacific marketplace has been referred to as a “basket of many markets and different stages of maturity” —a statement that serves to impress the importance of viewing each location with a unique lens rather than grouping them together and assuming a one-size-fits-all approach will work. It’s wise to do your research and gain a full sense of the various markets to ensure your entry in this zone isn’t doomed to fail right from the start. The first step to take is to understand the market opportunity present in each country and then craft an approach that is best to prepare you to enter each individual market.
While expansion into international markets will require time, effort and commitment, take comfort in knowing there are partners who can help you make bold, yet strategic, moves into new areas. OSF Digital has worked with numerous large brands and helped them approach their expansion into international markets with the peace of mind in knowing that their actions are backed by a proven methodology that has worked for others.