How to Reach Billions of Customers
- by Ryan Frankel
Taking your company global can be daunting. The world is changing at a rapid rate and middle-class consumers are constantly cropping up in new markets. The first step in tackling new global markets? Recognizing that there are nuanced cultural differences in every country. Each culture is different and consumers expect you to understand their way of life.
Two high-growth companies—Livestream, which offers a live online streaming video service, and Spreadshirt, a website for creating and selling T-shirts—are making the global leap while maintaining breakneck growth.
Livestream, which counts Facebook and The New York Times among its clients, has boosted sales by 613 percent over the past three years. The company is at the forefront of streaming content via the Internet.
Reaching international customers is a natural extension of Livestream’s business. Its two marquee clients alone enable the company to reach millions of international viewers, which prompts the logical question: Where should they head next?
South America. With widening access to mobile technology and the Internet, along with a rising middle class, South America offers a ripe market. Livestream could, theoretically, localize their product, messaging and customer services for the region, beginning with translating the service into Portuguese and Spanish. But things aren’t that simple.
To enter South American markets, companies must navigate nation-specific broadcasting rights and get a grasp on each country’s tastes and preferences. The obstacles are formidable but not unmanageable. Like any well-run company, Livestream prioritizes problems through a product roadmap. Their first step is to address geo-blocking (the blocking of Internet addresses from one nation to the next) and ensure they have the foundation to expand into a new nation. This takes an understanding of the local nation’s laws and a concerted effort not to operate in legal gray areas.
After addressing the issue of geo-blocking, Livestream then breaks down the sources of their traffic in each region. Brazil, they found, is promising. Livestream saw healthy rates of streaming not just on TVs and desktops, but also on mobile—Brazil has more than 75 million smartphone users and, having surpassed Japan and Germany to take the fifth spot on Android market, the nation is poised for continued mobile engagement. Livestream sees this trend, and with the World Cup and summer Olympics both on their way to Brazil in the next few years, the company is well positioned to reach the Brazilian market.
If not South America, then Livestream could take a note out of Spreadshirt’s playbook and look to conquer the European market. The company helps people design, sell and purchase T-shirts. It’s a simple concept that’s proved popular. Spreadshirt has grown sales by 335 percent over three years.
Spreadshirt’s approach to entering international markets starts with an edict laid out by CEO Philip Rooke: “Stay hyperfocused on the customer. Find out what the customer wants and expects, and deliver it before somebody else does.”
With a customer-centric philosophy at its core, Spreadshirt secured 72,000 active online sellers and publishers in 2013—all of which are supported by their global headquarters in Germany and manufacturing plants both here and across the pond. Rooke continues, ‟We have invested heavily in our platform and products to become the best global full-service partner for e-commerce, print, and fulfillment ideas.” The results are clear: Spreadshirt is operating in multiple currencies and languages and sells T-shirts in 17 countries, in no small part due to the localization of their website into 15 languages.
As with any global company, there remains room to grow. In order to enter new markets Spreadshirt will likely face challenges in currency exchanges, localizing content, and dealing with international shipping logistics. We’ve seen numerous multinational corporations—Starbucks, Nike, etc.—expand their operations globally at impressive rates, but international expansion does require diligence and planning.
Spreadshirt made the international jump by localizing its website and Livestream is utilizing American content staples—Facebook and NYT—to reach new audiences. Localizing a website, or streaming American content, are only a few approaches to international engagement. There are many ways to go global. Perhaps, Spreadshirt and Livestream should be passing along product roadmap notes after all.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared on Forbes.