It's a great time to be a technology company. These days, it's easier than ever to serve consumers around the world in ways that are low risk, and high reward. Global demand for digital services and products are at an all-time high, too.
The truth is, technology companies are uniquely primed to expand into international markets, thanks to global demand for their products, an ever-growing number of e-commerce solutions that accommodate international currencies and payment platforms, and digital delivery methods.
"Tech companies often sidestep so many of the challenges other industries face when expanding overseas," explains Victoria Bloyer, an Online Strategist for MotionPoint's Global Growth team. "Compare them to retailers. They rarely have to worry about delivery dates, shipping costs, or handling returns. Also, since they're mostly B2B-and businesses big enough to need their services have internationally-accepted major credit cards-supporting local payment options isn't an issue."
Tech companies often sidestep so many of the challenges other industries face when expanding overseas.
The overseas opportunity burns brightly for savvy tech companies. As we recently reported, the number of middle-class consumers is surging worldwide. This is especially so in emerging markets, where Internet, mobile, and technology adoption rates are skyrocketing. Infrastructures are improving. Disposable income among these consumers is rising, too.
Some tech companies are killing it with their expansion plans. Take Netflix, which famously expanded into 130 new markets in a single day last January.
Indeed, businesses know global expansion is where it’s at. In 2016, nearly 50% of U.S. companies expected their profits from international transactions to increase during the year. That’s a sizable leap from the 39% from the year before. Further, nearly 90% believed international expansion was a must-have for long-term growth. About 70% believed emerging markets was where the greatest opportunity would be found. (They’re right. More on that in a moment.)
It’s undeniable that the “world is shrinking with more companies expanding their product and services to a global market,” as one Forbes contributor wrote. So when should your tech company expand globally?
One Accel executive, who’s helped tech companies like Dropbox expand into new markets (and who’s collaborated with international execs at Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Uber), suggests that when “25% or more of your business is coming from international markets, it’s time to scale outside your home country.”
We’ve offered plenty of advice in past blog posts about how to identify ideal global markets, and have provided a smart (and risk-averse) methodology for entering and serving them. We’ll also soon debut our annual Trendbook report, in which we identify this year’s Top 30 global online markets and key trends businesses must adapt to in 2017.
Those posts are worth reading, though the "short version" takeaway is essentially: choose markets where consumers are already engaging with your primary-market website. Ideally, these markets have robust Internet adoption, business-friendly policies, and solutions to accommodate locally-preferred payments and (if needed) fulfillment.
Choose markets where consumers are already engaging with your primary-market website.
Take special note of emerging markets with supercharged mobile adoption rates. Take China. In 2013 and 2014, the country saw a surge in U.S. tech companies expanding to serve its consumers-businesses such as LinkedIn and Uber took great strides to engage Chinese consumers, using smartphones as the perfect channel of engagement.
“In the PC Internet era, none of the U.S. Internet companies succeeded in China,” noted a Business Insider contributor, “but the opportunity arises again in the mobile Internet era. … China’s tremendous market size is the biggest draw for these U.S. tech companies. Most have become ‘mobile first’ and now need to also become ‘China-first.’”
We’ve found these markets to be particularly expansion-worthy for technology companies:
- Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and India in Asia (note that Japanese consumers expect content to be in their native language; they also demand excellent customer service)
- Germany and Spain in Europe (note that Spain sites often attract traffic from Spanish-speaking Latin American markets and consumers)
- English-speaking markets such the UK, Canada and Australia (these markets are often highly competitive, but also have stable economies and infrastructures)
When to Speak the Language
To ensure immediate and sustained success in global online markets, most industries launch translated, localized websites on "day one"-meaning, they're serving local consumers in their preferred languages from the get-go. Why? It's downright alienating when companies debut English-language websites in overseas markets, particularly when consumers in that market don't often speak English. This misfire can sink expansion efforts.
Interestingly, technology companies don't often face the same kind of "translation urgency" that other industries do, MotionPoint's Victoria Bloyer says. A support system of "boots on the ground" professionals must often be in place before launching a translated, localized website becomes necessary, she explains.
But tech companies that underestimate the need for translated, localized assets for those support systems will struggle mightily in-market.
"If the company's product is a service-like hosting services or data solutions for businesses-what matters most is having support for that service," explains MotionPoint's Victoria Bloyer. "This can mean having sales reps, customer service reps, and other people who must be fluent in the local market's preferred languages.
"If the product is something like software, there's more leeway," Victoria continues. "You'll still need customer service reps fluent in the local language, but this can be mitigated very affordably with translated online content, such as software manuals, FAQs and the like."
Localized software is naturally a priority, too.
But once these critical components are in place, a translated, localized website becomes imperative to ensure customer loyalty, and wildly improve engagement and conversions.
"Whenever the foundation has been set for the online component, that's where MotionPoint makes it easy," Victoria says. "We make sure there is a uniform brand image across all markets, supporting customization and localization, and making sure the sites are functional and serving their purpose. This way, tech companies can focus on what matters: growing and supporting their customer base in global markets."
If you're a technology company looking to expand into global markets, MotionPoint can help localize your software, translate and localize your online text and multimedia content, as well as your company's offline documentation-such as product manuals. We can help arm your "boots on the ground" teams with localized assets.
Our solution also extends to translating content for social media and other marketing uses. Our platform is so flexible, it can accommodate other needs as you expand into additional markets. Contact us to learn how we can help.