B Before joining Think Shift in October 2020, I advised small, medium and large companies on international expansion. I provided advice, guidance and tools to support their strategies for going into new markets. This role involved discussions with company leaders about the risks and rewards associated with a new international venture. Typically, if it didn’t work out, they would lose the time and money invested in trying to succeed. But if it did work in their favor, it brought in a new source of revenue for the organization.
Now, I talk to business leaders about the digital opportunities they want to explore. In the time that I’ve been with Think Shift, I’ve realized the discussions are almost parallel to those I had at my previous job. Building a digital presence takes time, money and dedication, but if you do it right, the reward can be a significant increase in revenue. In this piece, I am showing the similarities between exporting to a new country and investing in online opportunities. Many of the arguments I made for exporting globally at my former job are also reasons to expand your digital presence.
1. More presence = better chance at acquiring new customers
Just like selling to a new country, when you introduce a new customer channel, such as e-commerce, you can reach a new or different demographic by playing on their preferences. Additionally, you gain the ability to target and make your most relevant products more prevalent to them.
Similar to penetrating a new market, there is an upfront cost to set up your digital presence, such as an e-commerce website or Amazon storefront. For example, many of the businesses I advised didn’t blink an eye when putting a sizeable budget aside to attend the same trade shows every year for five years, knowing it took time and money to build a reputation and network of peers. Landing that sizeable contract with their targeted customers made it all worthwhile. In the perspective of your digital presence, the argument is very similar – it will take money, resources, and time to build and recognize sizeable ROI. Plus, you’re not geographically limited when you’re online!
2. If you make it easy, you’ll have a long-term partner or customer
In business, it’s easy to recognize when a potential buyer wants to build a strong, foundational relationship. For example, they take consistent business trips to visit your facility and staff, maintain open and transparent communication and invest in educating your stakeholders on their product or service.
Companies can show they care by investing in the customer’s digital experience. It’s incredibly easy to spot who has made it a priority to ensure your buying experience is seamless. Seamless = the ability to complete a simple, frictionless transaction.
If you’re there at the right time, with the right tools in place to allow your customers to shop seamlessly, they will spend their money with determination. With access to almost all their needs at their fingertips, they will become impatient more quickly if you’re not offering their preferred purchasing experience, so you need to get it right the first time. You might be unknowingly pushing customers to your competitor’s digital platform because it’s quicker than dealing with your customer service department.
For example, Instagram has a shoppable storefront so users can now order their products directly from social pages without changing platforms. This innovative CX eliminates the need for customers to Google and browse through your website to find the product you’re promoting. If you have an e-commerce platform or offer a consumer product and have an active Instagram page, this is something you can (and should) capitalize on.
3. Being too dependent on a single stream can be risky
Having an online platform can prevent lost business. When exporting a product, the international business community knows that depending on a single geographic market for most of your revenue can be risky. The introduction of a tariff or non-tariff barrier can come along and wipe out your margin, remove your pricing position in that market and expose you to lost business.
This past year, businesses across the world had to react to the introduction of their own non-tariff barrier: a global pandemic that came with no warning. Companies with no digital infrastructure or means to connect with customers and support contactless transactions got hit hard by COVID-19, resulting in lost revenue for many.
The digital ecosystem and channels available can seem overwhelming. There’s a lot that needs to be considered when investigating what is best suited for your company, such as seamless omnichannel integration for your internal operations and customers. Like exploring a new export market, investing time and resources into researching and inquiring with potential partners to ensure you get the best ROI possible is important. One thing is for sure, though – the opportunity to influence your customers is no longer limited to evenings through late-night TV ads or Sunday morning print. There are eyeballs available all day long, scanning for their next purchase. Online browsing is the new window shopping, and your company’s digital presence is the mannequin.
About the Writer:
Nicole has first-hand experience working with companies to help them realize long-term growth by creating and executing a strategic plan. She joins Think Shift following four years working for the World Trade Centre Winnipeg, where she helped agriculture and other industry-wide companies grow their business and reach new international markets.