Organisations are competing harder than ever to expand their businesses by increasingly penetrating new markets, winning new customers and developing new product lines. While you may be a success in your local market, selling internationally is fraught with danger. Many companies have gone before you and failed. The most successful are those that recognise the need to “glocalise” their strategy.
Selling Internationally- A business and cultural challenge
To be successful on a global scale, brands have to take local tastes into account
Consumers’ attitudes and expectations differ widely across cultures and organisations cannot sell a product in the same way in two different markets. These differences have to be taken into account when doing business abroad or else companies can face huge financial and reputation losses.
Do international brands create a globalised culture around the world?
Some opponents of globalisation argue that the influence of western brands on a global scale has created a sort of homogeneous culture.
The term of McDonaldization reinforces this idea and describes the situation where McDonald’s invade local markets and bring about the loss of local customs and traditions because of tough competition. The same goes for global successful brands such as Starbucks or Disney.
Starbucks is being ‘asianised’ rather than Asia being ‘uniformised’
Brands need to adapt when selling across cultures
This cultural homogeneity is not a reality, however, because brands have to adapt to local cultures, and not the other way round. Without any cultural sensitivity and cultural adjustment when selling internationally, companies have little chance to succeed. Business school books are full of case studies of companies that have tried and failed to launch new products or enter new markets. Here are just a couple of examples of well-known companies that have tried and failed.
To be successful on a global scale, brands have to take local tastes into account.
Many big brands now acknowledge the vital need to truly understand potential clients’ requirements and expectations across cultures
Companies are increasingly aware of this and therefore try to ‘glocalize’ their products. This means that they are producing on a global scale but every product is personalised in order to suit specific cultures or tastes.
The concept of ‘glocalisation’, a combination of globalisation and localisation, is increasingly being adopted by global brands. Many now acknowledge the vital need to truly understand potential clients’ requirements and expectations across cultures.
McDonalds and Starbucks
Looking at the two examples of McDonald’s and Starbucks we can see how they have done just that.
As McDonald’s franchises are locally owned, they are able to propose different menus depending on local tastes and habits so you may find a McBurrito in Mexico, McFalafel in Egypt and mutton burgers in India. See image to the right that shows to what extent McDonald’s goes to localise its offering.
Starbucks also tries to sell ‘glocalised products’: pastries come from local suppliers and during the Dragon Boat festival in China, Starbucks proposed specific Cantonese pancakes. In this case, Starbucks is being ‘asianised’ rather than Asia being ‘uniformised’.
Help for selling internationally
By understanding the expectations and purchasing motives of your international customers, you will be able to create the best marketing strategy
Selling internationally is difficult but not impossible. There is plenty of information on the web, published case studies and training courses such as Selling across Cultures that provide an excellent platform for you to learn and understand the cultural factors at stake when entering new markets and launching new products.
By understanding the expectations and purchasing motives of your international customers, you will be able to create the best marketing strategy for your products and ensure that they will be a hit first time!