Every town has several small businesses with strong goodwill and a loyal clientele. If you think your local business falls into this category – then congrats. There must be something that you are doing right. Additionally, you have something that in the business language is referred as the “local advantage”.
You may analyze and list down the factors contributing to this local advantage:
- Is it a strong network of trusted dealers/suppliers?
- Is it the price point?
- Is it the quality or any other USP?
- Is it the lack of competition?
- Is it your family business roots?
It is important to note that the strategies and practices that worked for you in the local market might fall short of expectations while executing your global expansion and becoming international brand plans. You might have to answer to yourself – “how many of these advantages will not be there when I expand to other markets?”
A parallel exercise would be listing down of your weaknesses. All these starting thoughts and questions should be addressed in your expansion plan with a SWOT analysis.
For becoming an international brand, you can take inspiration from others – however, there is no formula for success. Your business needs to carve out a niche for itself. A keen focus will help you gain the advantage.
Study the market and competitors
Every market has its barriers and challenges. In case your business plans to expand internationally, you need to study market conditions, competitive landscape, and industry rules and regulations.
At the end of day, most of the buying decisions are still dependent to a large degree on product prices. While entering a market you will have to define a pricing strategy for competing with market leaders. In this regard, competitor price tracking is crucial. You might need specialized tools for tracking competitor prices, and define your premium and value offerings for different segments of the market. Ultimately, you will have to solve the premium vs value branding conundrum – discussed later in this article.
In case your products and services are new for the market you are entering, you will need an extensive GTM (Go-To-Market) strategy – with focus on customer education. You will need to get some analysis on the market segmentation to assess the target market size. This will help you in planning your product activation campaigns. You also need to understand the local culture and languages – especially from the branding and marketing perspective. For example – running a hashtag campaign on Twitter or Instagram might not generate a good response in some Asian countries – and will definitely fail in China. Involving localization specialists in your expansion planning might keep you on the right track.
Use Ansoff Matrix to evaluate expansion options
As a strategic planning tool for business expansion, the Ansoff Matrix can help you take some important decisions, depending on your markets and products:
Solve the Premium vs Value branding conundrum
There have been precedents in the history where a brand entered new markets, expanded market share, competing across the board (on both value and premium offerings), capturing regional distributors with high margins and becoming an international brand. This strategy works pretty well in industries like chemicals, paper, and steel. However, market share is not directly proportional to profitability across the board.
The positioning of your products (premium vs value), as well as their category, are big factors influencing your brand profitability. An article published in the HBR, cites a study and draws a striking correlation between relative market share (a firm’s market share as compared to the market leader), and product category:
“a brand’s profitability is driven by both (relative) market share and the nature of the category, or product market, in which the brand competes…that is, if a category is composed largely of premium brands, then most of the brands in the category are—or should be—quite profitable. If, on the other hand, the category is composed mostly of value and private-label brands, then returns will be lower across the board.”
Hence, to develop a profitable strategy marketers must consider if they should compete in the premium or the value segment. At the same time, they must take into account their relative market share for assessing their profitability.
Leverage digital avenues to the fullest
In the age of smartphones and digital marketing, reaching your end customer is easier than ever before. Your branding and marketing campaigns have a better chance of striking the right chord with the customers if you are aware of their preferences and buying habits. These insights are readily available in the digital world and provide you a chance to invest where it matters the most. However, for leveraging the online commerce to its fullest you need to have a sound pricing strategy.
More than 60% of online shoppers worldwide consider e-commerce pricing as the very first criteria affecting their buying decision and around 71% believe they’ll get a better deal online than in any brick and mortar store.
You need to align your digital strategy with your expansion plans. Often selling online means you need to have a dependable pricing strategy to compete with others. Pricing decisions in itself are not easy; however in the e-commerce space, they become even more complex as the changes are more frequent – and might require corrections on daily basis. Further, customers are empowered to choose lowest prices with pricing comparison engines – which constitute around 20% of e-commerce traffic. This means, one cannot depend on manual monitoring of prices and automated competitor price tracking solutions might be required.
An increasing number of e-commerce companies are using price tracking solutions to meet the sweet spot between cost-oriented pricing and market-oriented pricing. It is usually possible for a company expanding to newer markets to achieve profitability only when it has a cost advantage over its competitor. This means the company should be able to raise its product prices and yet maintain an edge over its competitors at all times.