How small businesses are challenging the status quo of international expansion

For many businesses today, it’s no longer a question of how will they expand internationally, but when will this happen. With the advent of technology leaving us increasingly connected, the logistics of expanding a small business internationally and ‘going global’ aren’t necessarily easier, but far more accessible. 

Speaking with Ross Greenwood on the Origins Australia podcast series, owner of Australian swimwear company Budgy Smuggler, Adam Linforth, explains how an idea that started as a ‘bit of a laugh in the backyard’ became an international smash and shows the future of international expansion is no longer limited to the big players.

Backyard ideas gone global, locally

Budgy Smuggler started out as a simple idea and has since grown to become a globally recognised brand. After spending several years running the operation from the founder’s coastal hometown in Manly, Australia, the company eventually expanded into the UK market in 2016. This meant that customers in the UK and Europe could get Australian made products and overnight shipping. A smart move in today’s society, where seamlessness and speed go hand-in-hand when delivering a product fit for the consumer. 

The company does show however, that the logistics of expanding internationally can be difficult, but not impossible. In this instance, an understanding of local context when entering a new market  is necessary. Establishing a local base within the country you’re expanding to provides a better sense of how that local market reacts to your product, which can be widely different according to different contexts.

Team working collaboratively

Road-test first, expand second

Many companies are faced with the obstacle of needing to stand out in a saturated market. But what happens when you’ve got an idea, but you’re not sure if it’s something people are interested in outside of your home country? Taking insight from a few OFX customers, there are ways to test the waters before taking your product global.

KoalaSafe founders Adam Mills and Steve Pack spotted a gap in the market when they realised that technology, while making our lives easier, also presented certain dangers to children who were exposed to it all the time. The result? A device which easily attaches to the home router and allows you to schedule time limits, block sites and applications and monitor usage.

Through significant crowdfunding measures, the brand were able to establish themselves ahead of the pack. This process also showed how many people were interested in the product, providing a reliable source of market research. Bootstrapping their efforts to fund the idea was made successful twofold by using Amazon to sell their product in a space with high visibility. 

With a heightened connection through new technology, the ability to build a community that exists entirely online has also been made possible for testing the waters of global expansion. This helps with road-testing your products in a global context and discovering whether there is a customer demand internationally. 

Before launching their product (wine) to the world, the founders of Vinomofo checked in with their online community of wine-lovers, or mofos as they’re often referred to, to assess whether that’s something they would be interested in. The resounding ‘yes’ has driven the company’s innovative strategy ever since: put the customer first. 

Co-workers high five

Homemade businesses

What about those who don’t have an established business, or those just looking to make a side hustle selling products online? The ability to communicate with people around the world through the technology at our fingertips means there’s a greater understanding that a marketplace can be found anywhere – every person has the potential to be a customer. Which means the proliferation of the one-man international business – also known as an online seller. 

Online sellers who use marketplaces like Amazon and eBay to sell products, whether full time or as a side hustle, are a key example of how selling internationally is no longer something for the big players with big budgets.

The great part about running an online business is the tools that specialist payment services can offer. OFX can offer small businesses, and online sellers in particular, tools like the Global Currency Account and risk management strategies like Forward Contracts and Limit Orders. This can help put small businesses on the global marketplace by staying ahead of the competition and managing payables and receivables with ease.

IMPORTANT: The contents of this blog do not constitute financial advice and are provided for general information purposes only without taking into account the investment objectives, financial situation and particular needs of any particular person. UKForex Limited (trading as “OFX”) and its affiliates make no recommendation as to the merits of any financial strategy or product referred to in the blog. OFX makes no warranty, express or implied, concerning the suitability, completeness, quality or exactness of the information and models provided in this blog.

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