Test new markets the smart way for global growth

Testing new markets doesn't need to be time or capital intensive. EasyCat's Fadi Sabbagha writes.

In today’s global world, the business that does not look beyond its home territory for growth is a rare and dying breed. But the questions of which territories, and when and how to launch, not to mention how much this will cost, remain hugely challenging for globally minded businesses. This is especially true for entrepreneurs and SMEs.

Building a business case for launching in a new territory can be a daunting prospect, and due diligence research certainly isn’t easy to carry out from your home. This coupled with the fact that the most attractive destinations – the financial centres and travel gateways such as New York, London, Berlin, Hong Kong and Shanghai – are the most expensive, competitive and therefore high-risk markets in the world.

Key challenges when scoping out a new territory typically include:

  • Customers – who are they, what are their drivers and pain points, what are their likes and dislikes, what are they willing to spend on a product or service such as yours, are you going to be switch selling them from a competitor, or will your offering be totally new to them
  • The route to market – how will you reach your target customers
  • The competition – who are your competitors and how will you differentiate yourself
  • Building the brand – how will you generate awareness and establish and promote your company in a new territory
  • Costs – what are they, from advertising your brand to recruitment fees and salaries, space rental costs and import duties
  • Network – do you have the right one in the new location, from professional advisors to operational suppliers to support your launch, and if not how will you develop this

How do you obtain detailed customer insights cost-effectively and efficiently? Market research, attending trade shows and exhibitions in your sector, pop-ups and carrying out your own on-the-ground focus groups are all options, but they do tend to be either expensive or time and resource heavy, usually both. Wouldn’t it be great if you could gather all of these insights remotely and have the analytics functionality to generate real intelligence?

By creating, storing and sharing visual led product information through an interactive cloud based content platform such as EasyCat, businesses can interface with customers anywhere in the world. Once their product catalogs and look-books are uploaded to the global, shareable platform, its embedded analytics will feed back audience and commercial insights, marking a significant step change from what is possible with a website or social media. Real insights enable businesses to answer crucial questions including which market/s are we most likely to succeed in, and do potential customers in one city prefer a certain product style or colour option to those in another.

Armed with insights, business can prioritise their global expansion one territory at a time whilst developing the best strategy to enter it. This could include a Japanese fashion brand considering London, New York, Berlin and Shanghai or a British ceramics designer looking at the Middle East, Tokyo and Hong Kong for example, only exporting certain collections to certain territories, and creating additional lines that build on expressed preferences to better-fit local tastes.

As a serial entrepreneur myself, I have spent years travelling the world to exhibit at trade shows in an effort to understand customers in potential new territories. I initially set up EasyCat in response to leaving an exhibition in Paris with a heavy rucksack full of brochures, trying to figure out how best to summarise with my team back in the office the leads I had just made. We have since developed a suite of features including share-ability, which has enabled the platform to evolve, making it ideal for small businesses looking to go global to use it as an international marketing tool to test and learn about geographical preferences. The data driven insights it can provide are not only cost-effective, but significantly more insightful than an on the ground pop-up for example.

Fadi Sabbagha is the founder of EasyCat, the world’s first catalogue sharing network.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.