Expanding to new markets online? Consider these three things

- August 10, 2021 3 MIN READ
expanding to global markets is good for business

Facebook’s Harry Lowes, Head of Independent Agencies ANZ outlines the benefits of expanding your online presence for new customers, whether they’re from other parts of Australia or around the world. 

After multiple and unexpected lockdowns, the principles of regular business conditions are changing. The market has become fast-moving and dynamic. Every day I hear from businesses and agencies about their challenges to grow, and work with them to find ways to adapt and achieve their goals while there’s little certainty in the market.

The benefits of expanding to new markets

One of the strategies I’ve seen get traction are businesses expanding their eCommerce presence to other markets, otherwise known as cross-border business. This is part of a global trend growing rapidly, with 1 in 3 consumers actively buying from businesses in other countries, and the cross-border commerce market anticipated to grow by 280% over the next 5 years.

We’ve seen over the last 18 months even the smallest of businesses find customers in other markets. Take for example Jane Robertson, the owner of Millwoods Shoes from Coolamon in regional NSW. After her husband was stood down from his job, she became the sole breadwinner for the family. To try and increase her sales, Jane sought more customers outside of the local area by tapping into Instagram. After a year her online sales grew by 8,000% as she managed to gain new customers all around Australia and even in New Zealand.

While the benefits of a cross-border business strategy can be a great opportunity for some, I would advise every business to consider these three points before getting started. 

Analyse and research new markets

Before expanding into a new market, you’ll need to look at your business to see if it’s in a position to do this. A simple question to ask yourself is, have you had any international interest in your business? One of the easiest ways to check is to see if your website or social media accounts have attracted any international traffic or if you’ve had international enquiries.

Another question to consider is can your business compete in another market? You may understand how your business fits into the market here locally but in other markets, it can be completely different. Consider things like the uniqueness of your business and what you can offer a new market that no-one else can. In addition to this, you should look at how you would compare to competitors already in the market, which you can research online by checking out their website or social media accounts to see how they operate.

Understanding your customer base

Finding customers in new markets can be a costly exercise, and previously something that only larger businesses had the luxury of doing. One of the most powerful ways Facebook has levelled the playing field for businesses of all sizes is by giving them the tools to find new customers in new markets – no matter where they are. Understanding your customer in new markets is also critical, and requires much more than localising your marketing and communications into the local language, although this is important. You will need to look into truly understanding what drives the behaviour of people in the market, what are the local cultural sensitivities you need to be aware of, and if your brand will connect. 

If you can find a way to connect with your customers in different markets, this will pay dividends. David King from Sticky Lollies, in Sydney NSW decided to take his tourism-dependent lolly shop online by live-streaming his team creating their sugar masterpieces every day. Their videos attracted thousands of viewers from the UK, US, Europe and Asia, with many becoming paying customers. Now David ships most of his orders across the country and the world, and the new strategy has kept his business going. 

Remember logistics

Getting products to customers quickly and efficiently is essential for any business to ensure a great customer experience, and to increase brand loyalty. To get this right, we recommend you consider:

  • What will your shipping requirements be?
  • Will you have a payment system compatible with new countries?
  • How will you meet customer expectations about delivery time-frames and refund policies?
  • What are your customs and tax requirements?

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all way for a business to expand to different countries and capture new markets. Every business has different goals, stages and resource capacity. Millwoods Shoes and Sticky are two very different businesses, but what they do share in common was their cross-border strategies were born out of sheer determination to keep their business going and growing. To help other businesses do the same, Facebook offers several free resources in our Cross Border Business Hub, including market insights and more examples of how other businesses achieved this too. 

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