William Shakespeare famously coined the phrase “All the world’s a stage” in his play ‘As You Like It’. However, 500 years later, the world is no longer a stage – more of a global marketplace. The Internet has significantly reduced the distances between companies and their customers, even when both are located on different continents. Ecommerce websites make ordering a book from the USA as simple as buying one from your local high street store, the only difference being the time taken to have the book delivered.
So why should your business invest in global capabilities? And how does your business need to adapt?
Some smaller companies still struggle to understand their place on the world stage, incorrectly assuming that global businesses achieve success through size. However, the Internet has levelled the playing field somewhat, allowing smaller businesses to compete directly with their larger rivals more fairly. And this is why every business should be extending their global reach.
Ecommerce has now matured to the point that it is ubiquitous. Everyone has heard of the Internet and 84% of British adults have used it.
People are already buying comparable products or services to your own via the Internet, which means someone is selling them online. If they are not buying from you, it must be your competitors. In effect, your competitors have found a marketplace in which they face little competition.
Depending on your company offering, you may have already hit market saturation point. You have quite simply run out of people to whom you can sell.
However, extending into the global marketplace expands your reach from 60 million UK residents to 2.4 billion potential customers worldwide. The more people you can reach, the greater the chances of creating sales and increasing turnover.
Internet users are already used to the concept of global availability, and most will expect your business to be similarly accessible. Not only will most expect to be able to buy from you online at their convenience, but increasingly they expect to be able to resolve issues with your agents locally.
What does your business need to do?
Having an ecommerce website automatically provides your company with a global shop-front that allows people to buy from you anyplace, anytime. However, the initial purchase is often the simplest part of selling abroad.
Here are some other things to consider in your quest to go global.
Your customer has bought and paid for your goods, so now you have to unite the two. Where you maintain a single depot in the UK, you will need to implement a global delivery system, such as a courier or postal service. You will also need to be up-front with foreign buyers, warning them that delivery may take several days or weeks depending on the delivery method chosen.
For many customers, unless their choices are severely restricted for some reason, a long wait for delivery is unacceptable. You should seriously consider setting up local partnerships with distributors who can warehouse and deliver goods for you.
Going beyond simply warehousing abroad, you may choose to assemble products in other locations globally. In this way products can be built to order, reducing warehousing and inventory costs and helping get your products into the hands of your international customers more quickly.
In addition to partnering with manufacturers abroad, your company will also need to negotiate supplier agreements to have raw materials delivered to their locations.
A simple purchase process is no longer sufficient to create repeat customers. A great experience is now critical to success, and that’s typically underpinned by outstanding customer service.
Where you are dealing with customers from different cultures, languages and time zones, providing timely, top-quality support is extremely difficult. For the same high standards you offer UK clients, your business should consider the provision of localised support.
This may involve outsourcing some of your helpdesk functions in a follow-the-sun set-up to provide round-the-clock support. Alternatively, you could look at hiring individual representatives in the countries that make up the majority of your international sales.
If your business builds products, a move to a global assembly line will require an upgrade of your ERP system. Your new platform will have to support multiple supply chains, stock-level monitoring of several warehouses and the ability to assign and fulfil orders from international locations.
Where you agree to globalise your workforce, paying staff in foreign countries presents numerous difficulties. Dealing with different rates of employer and employee tax obligations for each country adds a new layer of complexity for your payroll and HR departments – complexities your existing payroll system may not be able to handle. Again, your business will need to look at choosing a globally-aware solution for both payroll and HR software to assist with the transition.
One other consideration is how your business will implement these new platforms. For ease of deployment and maximum scalability, cloud-based software can expand and contract along with your needs without significant capital expenditure. Best of all, cloud-based systems can be accessed from any Internet connection, further reducing deployment costs and timescales.
Going global requires a careful blend of people and technology. Using cloud-based fulfillment platforms and HR tools, your business can quickly provide a global infrastructure to support your international sales efforts.
With the right tools in place, it then becomes a matter of adding human resources to your international team, and your business can go global with confidence.