International distribution describes the journey of products into international markets and the waiting hands of consumers overseas. Just as distribution can be complex on home soil where inventory management, customer demand, sales and shipping must all work harmoniously together, this is even more so for international distribution where there are competitors, translation issues, currency differences and shipping routes to navigate. Let us take a look at some things that can make this task somewhat easier.
Pay attention to the process
International markets and distribution introduce uncertainties and issues around language, currency, different cultures, trends and legislation by which you must abide. As such, it is important to pay attention to your processes before you venture internationally. Ensure you understand the market you are entering into and carry out due diligence in ensuring all documentation is correctly prepared and in place so that no regulations may be violated. Considering the details at the beginning, no matter how seemingly insignificant, will make the whole endeavour much easier down the track.
Focus on creating relationships
Just as with any transaction, face-to-face interactions are best and the most profitable for both parties. Establishing rapport and a business relationship should not be underestimated where international distribution is concerned. Some businesses have been known to transfer key staff members to the country of the market they are entering into to build strong business relationships.
Consider your commitment
When entering a new market, whether it be directly or through an agent who has access to a large clientele, it is vital to tread cautiously and not over-commit. Companies are often enticed by the possibility of a massive amount of new and exciting business opportunities that they bite off far more than they can chew, resulting in failure to meet commitments. This, of course, compromises their reputation at a time when it is already vulnerable. It is advisable to conduct market research and tests regarding your international target market and shipping routes so that you can trust that things will go according to plan when you are fully operational.
Consider your partners
Any business must collaborate with other services in order to get their product to their customers in a timely manner. This is even more relevant to international distribution channels where there are even more components and the destination and market is foreign. It is important therefore, to properly research any partnerships you create along the way and make sure they are trustworthy and reputable in their fields. In doing so, your success is far more certain and your risks are mitigated.
Be aware of exchange rates
Entering international markets comes hand in hand with working with multiple currencies and exchange rates. This can get extremely complicated very quickly and as such it can be easy to make errors where the customer is either overcharged or undercharged. Inventory and sales management software can handle these issues and ensure things run smoothly.
Refine and re-evaluate
It is impossible to know how well you are doing without feedback from customers. This not only sheds light on what aspects are going well and that you should maintain, but it also provides valuable insight into what could be improved for greater impact and higher sales. Therefore, it is extremely beneficial to conduct customer feedback surveys in which they can candidly share issues that they are experiencing.
The take-home message is that international distribution can be extremely complex and should not be considered lightly. However, it can also provide a wealth of new opportunities and therefore it is worth taking the time to get the process right. Consult with other businesses who already operate in the international arena or consider business mentorship from industry leaders. The world awaits!
Article by Melanie Chan in collaboration with our team of Unleashed Software inventory and business specialists. Melanie has been writing about inventory management for the past three years. When not writing about inventory management, you can find her eating her way through Auckland.