International expansion is no longer optional for many successful businesses. It’s imperative. With retail ecommerce sales expected to hit $2.9 trillion in 2018, the global opportunity is bigger than ever before. Ignoring international opportunities can open the door for competitors to come in and eclipse what were previously dominant players in a given sector.
That said, entering new markets can be hard and quite daunting, especially when there are significant cultural differences between the new market and your own. For brands that understand how important global expansion is to their business but aren’t confident in their grasp of new markets, partner marketing can be an exceptionally valuable channel. Let’s take a look at some of the benefits that leveraging the right partners for international expansion can bring.
Of course, this is the one that keeps marketers up at night. It’s far too easy to commit a cultural or linguistic faux pas when entering a new market if you don’t have boots on the ground or an intimate understanding of local customs and nuances.
But it’s not just simple translation errors or cultural sensitivities that can set back brands. On a very fundamental level, companies need to know the market economics in a market in order to understand where they fit. Smart partnerships can be invaluable here. In particular, ecommerce partners with local experience are well placed to help define — and market — the value proposition of a brand’s products in a given region.
Established Traffic and Customer Bases
One of the greatest challenges that brands face when moving into a new market is overcoming their “outsider” status. This is another key reason to tap into local partners. Local partners often have large existing member bases and have a rich understanding of the customers in their market. Their relationships with customers can be leveraged to put a halo around your newcomer products or services.
A great example of this comes from Chinese partner SMZDM. China is one of the hardest markets for global brands to enter, and SMZDM routinely partners with global brands to promote international products to its large customer base. SMZDM is one of many partners that work in this way and offers a direct way for global brands to establish a local presence.
Pay for Performance Reduces Risk
The beauty of partner marketing is that brands only pay for performance. In this way, partner marketing arrangements greatly reduce the risks associated with entering a new market. By establishing direct relationships with partners in new global markets, brands can work together with those companies to test and refine offers and messaging to resonate with the new customer base.
By working on a performance basis, your partners are heavily incentivized to get things right on your behalf. This is true of all partner marketing relationships but especially relevant to new markets. When international partners recognize the opportunity to become a go-to outlet for a global brand, they’re often willing to roll up their sleeves and deeply engage in the process.
Further, no matter how well known your brand is in your country, your partner may be better known than your brand in the target country. That means you need to recognize your partner’s expertise and listen to their advice carefully.
Direct Relationships Yield Great Advisors
Establishing direct relationships with large international partners can yield benefits far beyond a new sales channel. The best of these partners can become trusted advisors as your brand grows beyond its initial market. Once communication channels are opened, conversations will naturally extend beyond simple messaging and sales optimization, and you’ll find that your most trusted partners will become valuable sounding boards as you consider new plans within a region.
Indeed, using partner marketing as your stepping stone into new international markets can be a low-risk and highly effective way of bringing your products to new global customers. However, before embarking on this path, you must ensure that your organization is ready to be a good international partner.
When expanding globally, you must cover your bases on local language capabilities to support customer queries and to deal with returns. In addition, be sure you are prepared to pay your partners in their local currencies while still being able to report in your own. Finally, do your research up front to understand the current landscape in your new market and where you fit versus what competitors are doing. By preparing up front in these three areas, you can ensure that you’ll be be able to act as a strong partner in your new international collaborators, who will in turn work even harder for you.