It’s been beaten into the head of every modern entrepreneur, but it can’t be stressed enough: Get online or get in the unemployment line.
The digital revolution has made it necessary for all small-business owners to equip themselves with a viable online presence in addition to having a brick-and-mortar approach. There’s no gas bill for an online site, no need for indoor plumbing on the internet, but there are virtual hordes of consumers flocking to the digital arena. Despite what you may have heard, you can make a lot of money online without spending a bunch to get started.
An online presence also offers entrepreneurs another can’t-miss shot at making money: foreign expansion. It can be nearly impossible for entrepreneurs to set up shop in Europe or Asia using traditional methods like physical store locations, and it can cost a fortune to run the business remotely.
But Income.com knows entrepreneurs have a much more profitable option for cross-border expansion in internet capabilities. Want to get in touch with Chinese consumers? All you’ll need is a computer with internet access. Want to sell to customers all the way in India? Grab a keyboard. Want to market in the burgeoning Australian online market? Start up your smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop – whatever it is you use – and get online now to tap the vast potential of foreign ecommerce.
1. Identify the best countries for expansion
Before you bet all your chips on one country, you’ve got to know which ones to focus on. The online explosion hasn’t just gripped America, but the entire global community. From Mali to Malaysia and Fort Worth to Perth, a majority of consumers are going electronic and increasingly spending their money online. Still, not all markets are created equal, and entrepreneurs should know where people spend the most in their target industry.
According to U.K. communications agency Ofcom, Britons spend the most of any ecommerce market. U.K. consumers spent an average of $1,748 in 2011. Australia was next with an average of $1,359, and Sweden was third with $1,206. Even our neighbors to the north were heavy in ecommerce spending, with Canadian consumers spending $564 on average last year.
To get ahead of the competition, entrepreneurs also need to look at developing markets.
Take steps to familiarize yourself with rapidly growing internet user bases like China and India. Use social media tools like Facebook to introduce yourself to consumers in foreign locations. Entrepreneurs can even take that a step further by registering for Sina Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, to better communicate with new customers.
2. Walk the walk, talk the talk
International expansion can present entrepreneurs with a whole new world of business opportunities. However, that world can be a bit difficult to understand. Entrepreneurs may not be fluent in Mandarin Chinese or know how to speak the Sicilian dialect of proper Italian, but that’s no reason to abandon hope of success in foreign online markets.
Translating languages has become far easier than it was just a couple years ago. There’s also business solutions for translating entire webpages. One such firm is Acclaro, which can translate your online offerings in order to communicate with foreign consumers and offers free quotes for online translation costs.
Entrepreneurs can even take matters into their own hands by buying language skill software like Rosetta Stone to teach themselves. You can also utilize Google Translate to plug in an English phrase and spit it back out in German to post on your social media profile.
3. Find a forum to showcase products
Selling from your own website is a successful strategy for any entrepreneur looking to penetrate foreign markets. But you can also improve your chances by showcasing with online ecommerce providers in other countries that have an established client base and can connect you with ready-to-spend consumers.
Alibaba, the Chinese Amazon, is the best bet for entrepreneurs expanding into China, for example. By showcasing products on its site, U.S. entrepreneurs can cash in on the $159 billion in online sales Alibaba has made during the first 11 months of 2012 alone! Alibaba has a quick registration process that allows U.S. small businesses to display their offerings through the site.
4. Dinero, Euros and Yuan – oh my!
International ecommerce will make you money. But what use is that money if you can’t pay for business expenses using Canadian Loonies or Russian rubles? It’s money all right, but not money that is commonly accepted in the United States.
Entrepreneurs can make use of a host of international money transfer and currency converting firms to get their money back in American dollars. Companies like PacNet Services and Planet Payment offer services that enable easy,compliant ecommerce transactions and currency conversions.
Income.com can’t help entrepreneurs who are short-sighted in regard to the potential of online. You need to recognize that money is everywhere, and you can’t stop at U.S. online operations if you want to become the best and most successful industry leader. Identify markets ripe for expansion, speak the language, make use of local ecommerce sites and get your money back in U.S. cash.