Four steps to move your business into international markets

With more than half the world’s population now online, the opportunities for businesses to reach new customers abroad have never looked brighter. But how should companies prepare for international expansion? And just how easy is it?

Let’s begin by looking at your potential customers.

If one of your main concerns is that they’d sooner source products or services from businesses closer to them, worry not. Most of the time, consumers are unaware which country they’re buying from or, more precisely, they don’t particularly care.

According to research1, 96% of consumers didn’t know booking.com is based in the Netherlands. And, of these, 90% said it wouldn't affect their chances of buying from them again.

The very nature of online businesses also makes expanding abroad much less complex than in the past. It took just one year for Airbnb to do it, and three years for Amazon.2  

And while those are big-name brands, international expansion is a possibility for businesses of any size.

To help you weigh up all your options and formulate a plan, we’ve put together a few simple steps for you to follow.

Step 1. Define the opportunities

Build a picture of the likely demand for your product or services in the country (or countries) you’re targeting – and begin prioritising them.

Market Finder can help you here. Simply type in your URL and it will instantly tell you where demand for your business is highest around the world.

Here's how Market Finder recently helped online clothing retailer, SefaMerve, grow export revenue by 140% after expanding into five new regions.

Then you can start analysing the levels of localisation you’ll need to undergo for each market. For example, can you use existing marketing materials, or will they need adapting?

If your product has packaging, are there any specific rules and regulations it needs to comply with?

This is especially important when you consider that 72% of users spend most of their online time using websites in their own language.3

Step 2. Research your preferred markets

The Consumer Barometer can be a useful resource. It has hundreds of valuable insights for each country, ranging from daily internet usage and average number of connected devices per person, to people’s motivations for buying, and even how they receive products they’ve ordered.

Lastly, look for opportunities to build connections with local companies or organisations that may have other useful information about your consumers, or the region/country as a whole.

Step 3. Plan your global operations carefully

From customer service to payment systems, you’ll need to think through every aspect of your operations in detail.

For example, 67% of online shoppers leave during the checkout if there’s not a local payment system offered3.

And if your after sales support isn’t up to scratch, you may not see your shoppers again: 60% of them say that if they’re not pleased with the customer service, they won’t make a repeat purchase3.

Step 4. Measure your performance and fine-tune continually

When deciding to enter a new market, it’s critically important to define your expectations right from the start, and be aware that results may take longer than anticipated.

Even if you successfully localise your product and proposition, it takes time to generate awareness – plus your new competitors will be looking for ways to slow you down.

Right time for going global

Whether your potential customers live in China, Australia or Azerbaijan, the internet has made it easier than ever to connect with new customers abroad. And by following these 4 steps, you’ll be well on your way to reaching them.

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