Seven tips you can learn from international competitors

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Seven tips you can learn from international competitorsA number of high-profile international brands have successfully launched bricks-and-mortar or online stores in the local market. Here are seven tips you can learn from these businesses, especially if you’re thinking of trading internationally yourself.

Topshop will have stores in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Brisbane by late 2014. Zara did $106.8 million in sales in Australia in the 2011–2012 tax year. The Book Depository has offered free delivery from the UK since it started trading here in 2004. UK fashion brand ASOS sells an item to an Australian customer every six seconds.

Clearly, these international business competitors are doing something right, so we look at seven ways you can use the best practices of these savvy retailers to remain competitive in your local market, plus take your business global.

Did you know?

An eParcel contract with Australia Post can help you manage deliveries. It also allows you and your customers to track orders online for select locations, helping reduce order administration.

Compete locally

1. Get competitive on delivery

With UK brands such as ASOS and The Book Depository offering
free delivery for Australian customers, local businesses need to consider if they can match this offer. If not, consider what alternative selling points you can promote or how you can add value. As a local supplier, you should be able to offer faster delivery times than your overseas competitors, as long as you pack and post orders promptly. Even if you can’t offer free shipping, could you pay the difference and offer Express Post for the price of regular delivery?

2. Sell your local support and service

Internationally based online retailers may compete on price, but the time difference can play havoc if customers need to ask a question before or after a purchase. Don’t forget to promote your local (toll-free) phone number, service on Facebook and Twitter, and live chat.

3. Invest in differentiating your brand

Part of the appeal of international brands like Zara and Topshop is that they offer something different to their Australian competitors, plus they’ve made a name for themselves by consistently delivering fast, on-trend fashion. Whatever your industry, a clear brand proposition and target audience profile are key.

Consider the ways you can communicate how your brand is different – in your logo design, colours, products, site design or store outfitting, customer experience, marketing and advertising. For some businesses, it might be time for a brand refresh. Or, if part of your appeal is your heritage, you might want to add “Trading since 1985”, “30 years of outstanding service” or other messaging that communicates this proud history to your prospective customers.

Become an international competitor yourself

4. Embrace your “Australian-ness”

For international customers looking for something different and new, the use of Australian materials or ingredients could set you apart and be a real selling point. You might even want to apply to use the Australian Made, Australian Grown logo.

5. Get expert advice on your brand name and logo

Most of the strongest international brands use the same name and logo worldwide. Before you launch your business in a new export market, check that your name and any product range names work for a different culture and language. For example, Reebok had to recall 18,000 boxes of its Incubus women’s running shoes in the US, because people objected to a product named after a type of demon. Ghana’s Pee Cola (pee is slang for “very good” in Twi) and Iran’s Barf Detergent (barf means “snow” in Farsi) are two brands that would probably require new logos in order to enter mainstream / western English-speaking markets.

6. Be prepared to localise

If your products are seasonal, you may need to tailor your range to conditions in an export market. After conducting a PEST (political, economic, social and technological) analysis of the market, you may also choose to customise the product selection you offer in certain countries; for instance, offering items in red for Chinese New Year in suitable Asian markets.

A separate website for the export market may be essential, so you’re not displaying summer stock in winter, and so that you can display pricing in the correct currency.

You may also find (as Aldi and Fuchs Petrolub have in Australia) that having a warehouse in an export country gives you faster order response times and better supply-chain management.

7. Make a splash!

To launch your brand internationally, you have to be willing to put in the time and / or money to market it to make sure potential customers know you’re there. Your home page, blog, industry-related forums and social media channels such as your Facebook page are obvious places to start spreading the news. Neiman Marcus, a US luxury brand that sells online to Australians, took out full-page newspaper advertising to announce its arrival, while others – like The Iconic – target previous visitors to the website with remarketing online.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and the interviewees, and not of Australia Post.

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