Export Strategically in 2019: Top 6 Things to Know

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Export Connect’s Director Najib Lawand reveals 6 essential steps to succeed in export. Part 3 discusses how to target the right consumers and markets for your business.

Identifying your consumers, markets and channels

1. The importance of being understood by your consumer
To find your market, it is vital that your target consumer understands your brand and products. Does your messaging show why the product is relevant, what its key features are, what benefit it provides, and crucially, why they should trust in you? In many export markets, especially markets like Singapore, Hong Kong and UAE that are heavily reliant on imported foods, the product offering from around the world is large. Being an Australian brand definitely has its advantages, but that is not enough. Your product must have distinctive attributes that resonate with your target consumers.

2. What does your target consumer look like?
Many companies think about their target consumer in terms of age, gender, or income, but these are not always the most important attributes. Try asking some of these questions about your target audience:

– What’s their favourite brand?
– What sort of lifestyle do they have?
– How do they connect with your product category?
– What usage triggers will they respond to?

So, for a premium health food, the ASEAN and North Asian target consumer might be educated urban professionals in a high-income bracket, looking to provide a healthier lifestyle for their families, time-poor but interested in wellness, and open to innovation, and exploration. They will shop at high-end supermarkets, eCommerce platforms and increasingly ‘express’ type outlets that stock imported products. They will favour products in smaller packaging sizes that they can easily carry on public transport and suits their appetite. And information shared over social media platforms will influence their purchase decisions.

3. Who are you and what are you selling?
As important as identifying your consumer is having a firm identity of your own, both for your brand and product. What’s the story of your brand? What makes it unique? Why are your products special? What qualities will generate consumer attachment?

To position yourself in a competitive marketplace, you need to understand how consumers differentiate between products, be able to identify ideas that will help your brand stand out, and know how to put them into action to keep ahead of competitors. Consumers in mature export markets like the UK and USA are making informed purchase decisions and often this occurs by reviewing information on packaging in-store. So is your story a provenance one, a secret recipe passed through generations, is it about being all-natural and free from allergens, loaded with functional attributes or uniquely packaged for convenience or long shelf life. Does it have a celebrity endorsement that aligns with your brand value? And does it stand out on the shelf?

4. Breaking into a new export market
You now know who you are, and your target consumer. Hopefully, you’ve also identified an export market that fits those aspirations. How do you gain access? There are a few options:

Australian-based consolidator: This is where an Australian based company buys the products for export themselves.
Export agent: The exporting company works with an Australian-based agent.
Foreign agent: The exporter works via an agent in the import country.
Direct export to retailers and distributors: This needs a deeper knowledge of the import market than working via an agency.
Overseas branch office: This is usually only an option after achieving market validation through consistent sales where setting up a business in a foreign territory is a worthwhile investment.
E-commerce: This may involve one or more of the options above or include direct sale to consumers.

There isn’t one right way to access an export market – the best approach will depend on factors unique to each business and product.

5. Choosing a channel
There are many different ways to put a product in front of consumers – e-commerce; supermarkets and hypermarkets; convenience stores; hotels and catering outlets. Where to target will depend on your product and the retail profile of the import market.

6. Selecting a partner
Whatever approach you choose to access a new market, you’ll need to work with partners. Choosing the right one can be crucial to export success. Things to look at include:

Efficiency and scale: What level is their business operating at? What margin are they requesting? What are the nitty-gritty details like terms of trade and payment systems, or listing fees? How do they handle business reporting?
Leverage and knowledge: What’s their market reach? What retail channels can they access? What sales growth are they seeing and where is it coming from? Who else do they work with? Do they understand your target market?
Capability: Can they actually do the job? Do they have the distribution and customer service networks you need?
Need: How much do they want your business? Are they passionate about your product?
Openness and transparency: Do your missions and values align?
References, reputation and conflicts of interest: Who is vouching for them? What’s their reputation? And are any of your competitors already in their tent?

Where to from here?
Part 1 in this series looked at the reasons to export in 2019, while part 2 looked at how to set your key goals and identify the most appropriate markets to invest in.

Next up, we’ll be looking at some more key issues like brand activation. It’s turning out to be a great year – if you’d like to learn more, or simply start the conversation, reach out to us at service@exportconnect.com.au !