Christian Miccio (VP Product at First Data) and Kana Butkovic (Programme Director at First Data) set out a detailed strategy for launching physical products on an international scale. How do you manage return policies within a delivery supply chain that stretches across several countries? To what extent is your business model governed by local regulations?
Christian and Kana’s insightful outline is your first step to creating a research, strategy and delivery structure. Spending a lot of time and care here will help to avoid costly mistakes later on. If you’re planning world domination, they recommend designing a “cookie cutter” plan from the start based on the following principles which you can then adapt to a range of unique markets.
Step 1: Do your research
Get out of the office- and onto a plane. Different markets will have different needs based on culture, regulations and the current market. People will behave very differently to your native users and it’s key to speak with your audience in person to identify their specific requirements early on. This will lead to valuable information that will help you decide, for example, whether to choose a new territory that has a larger gap in the market or to go for a less risky market that has users more similar to your own.
The next step is to thoroughly assess your business’s suitability for a particular market- do you have any current advantages that might help you in particular country? It might be that you already have content marketers that are able to translate into a particular language or a support team already based in a potential new market. Lastly, look at direct and indirect legal regulations. You may not have any direct legal implications in terms of internal processes but the legal requirements of your customers might change and impact on their needs from your product.
Step 2: Get your business plan straight
Once you think you have a good product roadmap, make sure the numbers add up. Maths might be a universal language but new markets have different costs and potential revenue streams. What is your commercialisation strategy? Will the expansion be worth it? The revenue and cost estimates you will use will contain a lot of assumptions initially- make sure you keep track of these and the templates you used to create them to use in alternative countries.
It’s incredibly important to be thinking long term when creating the business plan- you don’t want to commit to a particular pricing strategy and end up undercutting yourself in the neighbouring region in the future. Ask yourself- how does my roadmap play out in relation to my models in other potential expansion countries?
Step 3: Plan your delivery strategy
Christian and Kana go into detail here in four main areas: technology, business set up, operations and sales/marketing. Technological aspects to consider include localisation of content for your audience; hiring an experienced due diligence company to ensure you meet product regulations and double-checking your internal infrastructure such as your CRM system is applicable for multiple international markets. Your support team will become frustrated very quickly if you expand into Germany but your billing software doesn’t support German characters.
For the business set up, it is almost like setting up a brand new company. Tax, legal documents, data privacy, pricing, billing, cancellation policies and recruitment will all vary from country to country. As your business complexity grows transparency in all of these areas becomes more and more important to prevent wasted resources. Where you can, as well as being transparent, standardise operations such as onboarding, service level agreements, support model and business intelligence.
For example, you don’t want to end up with a mess of data in different formats that makes it impossible to get an overall global view of your business. All these aspects need to be planned before, during and after your initial launch and Kana warns that ironing out these details can usually takes longer than expected so make sure you leave enough time for this in your roadmap.