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Thomas Edison stated, “I have not failed I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”. However, while positivity may drive ambition, reality does not always work this way.
To step into the spotlight in today’s fast-moving, sharply competitively, yet highly lucrative markets such as found in Asia, you need a great idea for a strategy or a lightbulb moment that illuminates the way forward.
Unprecedented economic evolution, world-class production values, globally competitive costs and sought-after consumer markets, as well as digitally connected leaders; Asia is a fertile landscape for businesses to source materials, manufacture products and grow their brand identities. Many emerging economies in Asia are not simply following global industry trends but setting them, influencing product development, market potential and business structure and operations.
Asian markets in Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Myanmar and Singapore, for example, are connecting with international companies in Europe, the US and, of course, other parts of the region. These businesses cover a wide range of industries too, from FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) to healthcare, specialty chemicals and ingredients, as well as capital investment goods and analytical instruments. At every stage of the value chain, enterprises aware of Asia’s rich reward potential are mining for treasure by utilizing successful expansion strategy tools.
To maintain consistent quality, attractive costs and healthy revenue streams, business leaders may need to face business environments, cultures and languages they are unfamiliar with, as well as different compliance regulations and consumer behavior. Shining a light on future opportunities, here are seven insights to successfully expand your business into Asia:
As well as expanding into Asia with a specific brand or product, there are many other ways to expand business interests in the region. This can be through manufacturing, such as producing capital investment goods and analytical instruments using the latest technology advances. Another big area is sourcing of materials and ingredients, such as in the area of performance materials.
A great number of industrial enterprises within various industries are looking for specialty chemicals. Access to a global network of resources can boost manufacturing performance, price point and product development. Focusing on sales and marketing alone as a way of entering into the Asian business arena could be a mistake though, as there are other well-defined pathways that could lead into new markets earlier, in a different way, and from a different direction.
Difficult-to-source ingredients may have pushed price up to the point of being prohibitive to success in any market, not just Asia. However, collaborating with knowledgeable specialists in the region and working in state-of-the-art facilities can fast-track you to success, whatever your market focus. There needs to be a focus on finding the right suppliers, on quality assurance and on how to achieve compliance too.
There’s no substitute for real-world, real-time data about Asian markets. Preconceptions and information relevant just a few years ago can be counter-productive when analyzing the region, individual countries and target markets. Research can be expensive and results can sometimes be difficult to understand, giving you a wide view that does not include the finer details you require.
Economically, socially and technologically Asia has experienced a huge transformation. There are cultural, legal and industry factors shaping each destination with changing demographics creating a huge impact too. Aging populations and greater disposable income, along with improved production values and evolving consumer behavior are all important pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Information, research, market feedback and an understanding of trends provide a clear picture about individual markets in each location.
Localized, grassroots and relevant data that provides a well-rounded insight can help you decide which market to expand into in Asia and also how; as well as the challenges to avoid and the opportunities to embrace. Market analysis is also about looking forward to the future and not just analyzing the past or providing a static evaluation.
There’s no doubt that Asia is on a trajectory to take over as a global financial powerhouse. While all that glitters is not gold, understanding this economics at play within Asia reveals new market challengers as emerging economies rise up the economic scale.
Greater foreign investment, the growth of megacities and urbanization of rural areas create a brand-new industry landscape. To seize opportunities within these business boom towns, a good guide is required as well as an up-to-date roadmap.
Infrastructure across and between Asian countries, particularly within the ASEAN Economic Community, is rapidly becoming more sophisticated. The same is true of consumers. Today’s Asian millennials have more income than their parents ever did and the consumer-spending mindset to match. Aging populations are using their spending power in numbers to influence many industries too. An example of this is the growth of self-monitoring medical devices within healthcare. One of the biggest demographic changes is, without doubt, the emergence of the region’s growing middle classes which in some areas didn’t exist a few years ago.
Cost-savings are still attractive within Asian markets too and this prompts businesses to consider outsourcing different points of their value chain. Application engineering, for example, ranging from concept design to manufacturing with testing facilities can provide a competitive solution.
Part of business strategy involves product development and being able to draw on technical and business strategy support.
Tech disruption may have shaken up businesses, but it’s had a beneficial impact on creating new sales channels, whether within retail, B2B or pharmaceuticals. Globally, FMCG has found its home with fast-moving digital platforms within the eCommerce marketplace and other markets are following fast, such as luxury brands. With a well-developed cash-on-delivery profile, the lesson for many businesses expanding into Asia is about understanding the value of pursuing offline, online and omni-channel sales. Systems need to be in place to manage distribution channels, take and process orders and deal with merchandising solutions.
Sales decisions can be complex, therefore understanding the small details of these channels is worthwhile. Often the question is how to achieve integration through an omni-channel strategy. Words such as “interactive”, “immersive”, “integrated” and “experiential” have become far more important than ever before. As choice increases so does demand and the need for consumer-centric sales campaigns and avenues.
Even where the main business is offline, the possibility of adding on-site digital components, connected features and consumer-led brand preferences needs to be managed. A look at what the competition is doing is always vital, while in heavily demand-driven territories, the message is clearly “consumer, consumer, consumer”.
Not so long ago, businesses were starting to open their minds and their budgets to the possibility of online and social marketing solutions. With online engagement being an everyday part of brand promotion, it’s difficult to remember how reluctant some businesses were to change over to the digital side. In fact, while some big-name brands jumped onto online platforms, many original equipment manufacturers (OEM) were slower to adapt than the often more flexible SMEs.
Asia’s connectivity history, evolution and end-user preferences tell an incredible tale of tech-focused unicorns, smart social influencers and digitally mobile populations. Messenger services are transforming into business tools and companies increasingly focus brand presence on Facebook and through promotions on eCommerce platforms. Asian markets feel comfortable with digital marketing and respond well to it.
Within the digital age, there is still a need to localize to understand your market, engage with it and create relationships and customer relationship management (CRM) advantages. Online platforms are becoming increasingly complex yet creating a strong digital presence in Asia is fast becoming as essential as knowing how to communicate, where to build presence and what message you want to convey. It’s about managing public relations and promotions, building-up a brand and successful field marketing.
As many Asian countries leapfrogged from being digitally disconnected to app-fixated, the demand for convenience and quickly delivered goods has become part of the culture of many consumer-facing industries. The growth and demand for same-day, next-day delivery and eCommerce is ever-increasing. This can put pressure on businesses who need to be running before they even step into Asian markets. However, it also brings about disruptive-technology advantages too.
Harnessing the power of smart logistics and integrating innovation and big data to automate supply chains can result in efficient logistics. Even offline, where convenience, quality and an open-all-hours philosophy rules, particularly in urban areas, the key to success is to take advantage of the tech revolution across Asia. More traditional trade, as in a classic mom-and-pop store, is still highly relevant, accounting for the majority of the FMCG market in Thailand, for example.
Beyond consumer behavior, accessing tech advancement strengthens distribution and logistics, while aligning supply and demand more effectively. It also enables your business to become more flexible and better able to respond to other supply-chain factors as well as the power of market demand. Distribution and logistics is a huge area covering every aspect of deliverables from dealing with import regulations, regulatory considerations, warehousing, co-packing, transportation, market analysis and cash collection, as well as ultimately successful delivery.
Every successful company knows that a sustainable approach reaches far beyond making a sale and delivering a product. Many a goldmine of a company has failed to tap its true potential when expanding into new markets due to poor post-sales performance, putting established businesses at risk.
After-sales services should be given full attention. Quality control, technology, talent, as well as equipment performance and service cannot be overlooked. These factors that add value to your brand assets, enabling better focus on customers and appropriate solutions applied to inevitable challenges along the way.
Of course, none of these points is exclusive to Asian markets, but dealing with client complaints, system breakdowns and return policies happening in a different location creates an added burden. Looking beyond sales is part of project management and a get-rich-quick approach to market penetration with little post-sales concerns can soon start to trip you up. This part of the journey requires strong customer services and technical support, with a focus on HR, quality and communication.