Five tips for growing your business abroad

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024

By Duncan Heron, below, VP of Marketing, DHL Express

In the midst of sky high inflation and more economic uncertainty on the horizon it’s tempting for small businesses to batten down the hatches and look for cost savings to ride out the storm, but now is the time for businesses to think laterally and explore new opportunities to shore-up revenue and even grow it.

Just as the pandemic taught businesses that they can’t rely solely on bricks and mortar, a key lesson from past economic downturns is that it’s risky for businesses to depend exclusively on one market. Gone are the days when only big businesses could have access to the benefits of international expansion. With the right partners and strategy in place, small businesses can tap into new revenue opportunities, reduce risk and emerge on the other side stronger.

For businesses open to exploring new markets, here are five key things you should consider:

1 Ensure your online operations are open for international business 

The growth of ecommerce has smoothed the path for SMEs with ambitions to sell their goods internationally. Most ecommerce platforms make it easy for UK businesses to access cross-border capabilities and even offer localisation tools such as translation and currency options. Talk to your ecommerce host to find out what options are available to you.

2 Consider quick wins while developing a long-term strategy

Although international expansion should be a strategy for the long term, SMEs can tap into trends and existing data to identify opportunities for quick wins and speedy market uptake. Conducting top-level keyword analysis through tools like Google Trends and looking at the location of existing website traffic will reveal which regions your product is most likely to land well in right away. If domestic buyer spending is decreasing, this will provide a welcomed stream of revenue while you refine your long-term international expansion strategy and build brand awareness.

3 Localise your efforts

If you’re ready to do more than dip your toe into international waters and you want to target a particular country or area, it is important to take time to research that market. The more you can understand about the culture, buying behaviours and even the preferred payment methods the more you can tailor your ecommerce strategy and customer journey to them.

4 The devil is in the detail

It’s important to understand country-by-country rules and regulations and which apply to your products. Some countries have simpler paperwork requirements or lower tariffs. Being informed in advance means not coming unstuck later on. This can seem complex so don’t be afraid to ask your shipping partner for support.

5 Maintain frictionless delivery and returns experiences

Don’t underestimate the role of shipping and returns for customer loyalty. Just like your domestic customers, international buyers will expect an efficient delivery process and a convenient returns policy. Think about your shipping cost strategy, whether to build it into your costs or give transparent pricing options at checkout. Either way, with trackable orders, fast deliveries and simple returns, you’ll increase order values, customer loyalty and profitability. Enlist the help of a strategic partner like DHL Express for support.

If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that disruption could be lurking around every corner. Rather than waiting for ideal market conditions, SMEs need to get on the front foot and embrace change to help ride out turbulent times. Branching out internationally requires some confidence but can be the key to unlocking substantial growth.

DHL Express

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024