Empowered by new high-speed connective technologies, Australia’s small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) are expanding internationally like never before.
The Asia-Pacific region is enjoying a high (though decelerating) growth rate of 5.3 per cent, DFAT’s 2015-2016 Annual Trade Report reveals. Attracted by this potential, Australian SMEs doing business overseas now generate more than $1.4 billion annually, according to the ‘Glocal’ Report recently commissioned by the nbn.co.
To compensate for their limited resources and personnel, SMEs are using innovative technologies such as auto-translation and the collaborative public cloud, as well as the disruptive gig economy to offset some of the traditionally prohibitive costs associated with overseas expansion.
Driven by an entrepreneurial, do-it-yourself attitude towards reaching global markets, Australia’s SMEs have forged new models for connected businesses engaging international customers. We’ve compiled four key takeaways from their success.
1. Effective, authentic localisation
While there are no substitutes for home-grown, tailored approaches to localising a business’s strategy and content, modern technology has empowered resource-limited SMEs to deliver locally accessible experiences on a tight budget.
When building your online presence in multilingual markets where it doesn’t make sense to translate into all local languages, ensure critical information is published in plain text and not as part of an image to ensure potential customers can use online translation services to obtain a functional version of your page.
While it shouldn’t be the sole source of vital information, rich media is an ideal focus for your marketing spend in linguistically dense markets. However, it is important to take the bandwidth of your potential users into account when deploying rich media.
For example, in the Philippines, the average connection speed is 5.5Mbps, which is less than half of Australia’s, according to American cloud services provider Akamai, so it’s important to tailor your content accordingly to ensure it’s readily consumable.
It’s easier than ever to find local translators thanks to online freelance and gig economy platforms that allow content creators to easily source professional translators from around the world, verified by robust community reviews.
2. Utilise international public cloud services
The proliferation of international public cloud services has been a key factor in the explosion of Australia’s SME-driven overseas expansion.
High-profile, professionally translated, cloud-collaborative office, enterprise resource planning and administrative suites allow organisations to integrate international partners seamlessly into their office workflow without having to redesign core systems.
Online merchant platforms such as eBay and Alibaba can not only assist in linguistic localisation but can minimise the need to master local financial regulations, institutions and payment systems.
3. Leverage digital resources to expand mindfully
No matter what scale you operate at, expanding into any new market represents a significant investment of capital and resources, and it’s vital to mitigate that risk.
Effective targeting of a market niche to gain a foothold, limiting operational scale during the adjustment period and experimenting with different approaches have proven to be effective tools for small and large businesses alike; consider, for example, Amazon launching its books and media offering in Australia prior to its full retail rollout planned for 2018.
Researching foreign market conditions has never been easier. As open government and data policies become more established around the world, there’s been an explosion in reliable, government-sourced data readily available online.
In the Glocal report of more than 500 Australian SMEs last year, more than half indicated they’d used online resources such as these as their primary research into new markets.
4. Design a bespoke digital strategy for China
By 2019, the People’s Republic of China’s 467 million digital shoppers will account for more than 50 per cent of global online sales. With the consumer class’s wallet projected to reach $8.6 billion by 2030, China is one of the key markets Australian businesses are looking towards for expansion.
However, China’s online ecosystem is one of the world’s most unique as many common digital platforms aren’t available. Google’s office suite and social media and communications platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all blocked in China, meaning you’ll need to engage first with local providers to engage with customers.
WeChat, Baidu and Weibo are China’s three most prominent social media platforms for advertising, while TMall, JD.com, Taobao and Alibaba are the most widely used online marketplace platforms.
If you’re looking to interact with consumers, it’s important to support China’s unique digital payment platforms – Alipay, WeChat Pay and the dominant credit card UnionPay – as for many consumers transferring money out of the country can be complicated.