The Future of Business Development – International Markets
Business development in international markets – Jack Simpson, international services executive at the Chamber
The pandemic had significant repercussions for international trade. International trade is based on travel, shipping and, crucially, cross border movements of goods, so when the pandemic threatened to close borders, international trade was flipped on its head.
However, through out the pandemic, we have seen an adaptation of business practices, trade processes and attitudes in global thinking in response to the pandemic, with new ways of working as we recover.
Trade missions are one of the greatest tools in penetrating markets, and exposing businesses to new opportunities, but they suffered greatly in the immediate shock of the pandemic.
The answer was found in virtual trade missions, bringing markets and contacts to the comfort of our own office or homes. Virtual missions allowed businesses to take part in a series of knowledge seminars, meet the buyer events and hear of opportunities or support available to them.
The most unique series was conducted for Gulf Food, where members remained at home due to travel guidance, but shipped food samples to potential customers in Dubai, and could arrange 1-1 calls with the customers to describe or pitch their product as they sampled it.
A digital marketing agency found great success through virtual missions. The company said they just didn’t have the time or resource to attend a traditional, physical, trade mission, but the virtual programme removed access barriers, and created a level playing field for smaller companies to access opportunities.
From this basis, and with DIT support, they have now signed agreements from Dubai to Indonesia, and expanding their horizons further through this digital adaptation.
“We can adapt virtual elements to support trade in a post pandemic world.”
There is, of course, no replacement for face to face relationships, holding products in your hands, or experiencing new markets and cultures first hand. However, we can adapt virtual elements to support trade in a post pandemic world.
The Chamber itself has adapted to a new virtual way or work and support. Throughout the pandemic, traders dealt with tightening borders, UK-EU Exit and ongoing supply restrictions. By utilising our Chamber network overseas, we were able to source and host contacts online to deliver insight or 1-1 support for businesses tackling trade challenges.
In one case, an education member joined our briefing of the Australian Trade Agreement, with BCC Australia, and through them found ways to establish presence and benefit from both the agreement and Chamber’s contacts.
With the advent of virtual platforms, in market specialists can prepare would be exporters for key challenges, cultural norms or guidance before visiting clients overseas. Businesses benefit from a reduced burden or risk and confidence knowing how to present themselves and products, as well as the next steps to take when completing a sale.
Cultural aspects, however, do come into play here. Various members commented on Japanese clients more hesitant to conduct business virtually or in South America where business partners wanted to shake on deals. This is not to say business to these areas stopped, but certainly delayed the progress of new trade.
Supporting international traders has been streamlined. In the wake of the EU Exit, the Chamber developed a virtual network of specialists and overseas Chambers to support members both at home and in overseas markets.
The advent of online and virtual platforms opened access to new contacts, and forcibly broke perceptions of online work and collaboration. This was spearheaded through the Chamber’s Service Desk. A collective platform regional business can contact (at [email protected]), and receive relevant guidance, support, or if necessary access to a specialist
Customs processes have also undergone a transformation. Some markets required “wet” stamping of documentation, ink on paper, where as many modern economies have adopted digital signature platforms. COVID concerns thrust most of these “wet” processers into the modern era, and while some have reverted back to wet stamping, others, like Switzerland have adopted the digital process.