Expanding a business internationally can seem like a daunting prospect in the best of times, and especially in 2017. Brexit, American political unrest, and a growing strain of economic nationalism have created an uncertain outlook for global trade, but these factors alone should not deter businesses from pursuing expansion. The rise of e-commerce, sophisticated data analytics, and other easily-accessible resources can provide businesses with the tools to seize opportunities and manage risk as they explore foreign markets.
While advice about how to expand internationally abounds, much of it can be boiled down to a single tenet: know your market. Which countries are experiencing demand for your goods? Which have growing economies and stable currencies? Market research can help you find the answers, and ensure you’re exporting to a country that’s ready for your business. A failure to account for real differences in culture and demand can be disastrous in expanding abroad. For example, Ikea initially struggled to gain a foothold in China, where it entered a market already flooded with low-cost home furnishings, and had to reposition itself as a more aspirational brand. The lowest-risk strategy for testing consumer interest is through e-commerce, and for this, it’s essential to have a website that allows customers to shop in the language of their choosing, as well as accepting universal payment methods through companies like Worldpay or Paypal.
The most essential resource in managing your expansion is your logistics team. Logistics professionals will locate savings and help manage crises that can make the difference between success and failure to new exporters. When choosing a logistics partner, look for a company with international offices and a track record of success in the country to which you’re exporting. Your 3PL team should provide more than just freight forwarding; they should save you time and anxiety by making the detailed arrangements necessary for your goods to arrive safely and on time. Logistics professionals can ensure you’re properly licensed as an exporter with the US government, that your bills of lading are correct, that your shipments successfully pass through customs, and that any problems with carriers or local authorities are dealt with efficiently. Your 3PL team is your partner in choosing the best packaging and shipping methods, contracting with international carriers, and tracking your deliveries. Especially in 2017, the most cost-effective shipping methods are constantly shifting, and by working closely with logistics professionals, you can be sure that your expansion strategy is as agile as possible.
The next critical step in expansion overseas is a thorough understanding of the regulatory compliance requirements in-country. In recent years, Google, Uber, and Airbnb have all had to pay fines to foreign governments for failing to adhere to local laws, and while the fines themselves may be insignificant, the damage to those companies’ public images is still being felt. From customs fees to tax codes to labor laws, be prepared to navigate a whole host of new regulations, and don’t assume you can perform all the necessary research in-house. The best way to ensure your business doesn’t run afoul of international standards is to retain qualified legal representation and accounting teams, as well as a good logistics company to keep your business compliant with international trade rules and regulations.
The amount of expertise needed to successfully expand abroad can seem overwhelming, which is why it’s crucial to take advantage of available resources to simplify the process. The US government provides a number of tools to assist business owners in becoming exporters. Export.gov offers FAQs, “market conditions, opportunities, regulations, and business customs for over 125 countries prepared by trade and industry experts at U.S. embassies worldwide.” The US Customs and Border Patrol’s website also has a helpful section for exporters, as does the IMF. Expanding internationally requires a significant capital investment, but programs such as the Small Business Association’s 7(a) program offer loans to qualified applicants. The Export-Import Bank (EXIM) is another very helpful government agency that provides financing and insurance to exporters (although President Trump has offered confusingly mixed messages about its future).
Despite the myriad of economic, political, and legal considerations to navigate when expanding internationally, business owners in the internet age have access to unprecedented resources to successfully go global; the key is to use them.
If you’re ready to become an exporter, Red Arrow has a proven track record of handling cargo around the world. Call today to learn how we can help your business expand internationally.