Global trade is a constantly evolving landscape with new challenges and opportunities emerging all the time. In an international marketplace dominated by digital technologies that bridge gaps between oceans, staying competitive is proving harder to do, particularly for exporters looking to expand into international markets.
Leverage supply chain strategies
However, as far as generating business goes, it’s up to organisations to find new ways of delivering value to their buyers. So staying ahead of the curve and remaining competitive is no longer optional; it is a necessity. This can be a complex task, given the numerous factors that influence the success of international trade, from economic conditions to geopolitical tensions.
That said, there are several key strategies that exporters can use to remain competitive in a time where the costs of goods and services are but only minor components of a buyer’s purchasing decision. Value can be added in several other areas, which is where the competition can be edged out. This article will outline some of those crucial strategies and methods that exporters can use to attract more of the right type of international buyers and gain that competitive advantage.
How can exporters deliver more value to their buyers?
Understand emerging technologies and using them correctly
One of the most significant ways that exporters can stand out from the competition is to adopt new technologies that are driving change in the world of trade and supply chains.
New technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), and the Internet of Things (IoT) are transforming how commodities are bought, sold, and transported around the world. These technologies offer a range of benefits to exporters, including increased efficiency, improved traceability, reduced lead times, improved security, and lower upfront costs.
One of the most significant benefits of these new technologies is the way they streamline supply chains, making them more efficient and reducing the risk of bottlenecks and delays. For example, blockchain technology can be used to create a decentralised, secure ledger of transactions that can be accessed by all parties involved in a supply chain. This makes it easier to track the movement of goods and ensures that everyone has access to the same information.
Artificial intelligence, meanwhile, can help to automate many of the manual tasks involved in the export process, such as preparing shipping documents and tracking the status of overseas shipments. This can save time and reduce the risk of errors, helping exporters to operate more efficiently and dedicate more time to focusing on optimising other areas of their businesses.
IoT technology is also transforming the way that goods are transported, allowing real-time tracking of shipments and reducing the risk of theft or loss. This can be particularly important for exporters dealing with high-value items, such as luxury goods or precious metals, as it provides greater visibility and control over their shipments.
Offer lenient payment terms
One of the biggest talking points in supply chains worldwide is the ever-expanding trade finance gap (estimated at USD 1.7 trillion in early 2023) that persists year after year. More buyers – particularly those in developed economies – are increasingly reliant on flexible invoice payment terms for goods.
Meanwhile, these competing exporters, often in emerging markets, are often forced into acquiescing to this demand. However, so as not to lose business, they often offer extended payment terms to their buyers, subsequently putting themselves at a cash flow disadvantage, and sometimes going 90 days without access to essential working capital. It is only until that particular invoice is paid where that crucial money can be put to good use within the business.
However, there are plenty of trade finance solutions available that exporters can take advantage of, such as non-recourse invoice factoring, which can unlock that working capital, with creditors adopting the responsibility of chasing payment from the buyers. Creditors can advance most or all the invoice amounts, collect the payment from the buyer on the due date and bill the exporter a service fee.
In turn, exporters can dedicate the upfront capital towards business growth, marketing activities, new production cycles, and much more, while the buyer still gets to reap the benefits of flexible payment.
Build mutually beneficial, long-term relationships
Another key strategy for staying competitive in global trade is to develop strong relationships with suppliers, customers, and other key stakeholders. This can help to build trust, reduce the risk of disputes, and ensure that all parties are working together towards a common goal.
Building relationships does not happen overnight, but trade fairs, expos, conferences and exhibitions can be good places to start liaising with potential suppliers, customers and partners. The more face-to-face, virtual or hybrid events you can attend will help you establish a strong presence in markets that you are entering, while also allowing your contacts to learn more about your company, ethos, values, conditions, products, and much more.
Another fantastic way to begin attracting the right types of customers, suppliers and partners – and building relationships with them – is to use digital platforms correctly. Specifically, in no particular order, invest in a professional website, high-quality branding, and develop a cohesive, solid marketing strategy for reaching customers online.
Furthermore, if you are selling highly technical or sophisticated products, ensure your digital platforms use professional imagery of them and their intricate details to ensure they are as ‘valuable’ as possible. Quite often, online consumers are drawn to eye-catching imagery, which can be taken with a reputable DSLR camera. Having a solid portfolio of images to use on your website and marketing materials will go a long way in promoting your products and increasing visibility in target markets.
Expand your knowledge of other regions and legislation
Another important strategy is to stay up-to-date with changes in regulations, laws, and taxes that may impact your exports. This can be a complex and time-consuming task, given the many geographies and regions that you may need to navigate. Exporters often find that expanding internationally poses challenges that they had not previously considered, such as economic, political, social, and cultural differences in the markets and regions they are entering.
To help with this, exporters can use digital tools, such as trade databases and online legal resources, to access information about regulations and taxes in different countries. They can also work with trade experts and consultants to ensure that they comply with all relevant regulations and laws, and to identify any potential risks and opportunities.
Enhance product development
Finally, exporters can improve their competitiveness by investing in the development of new products and services that meet the needs of their customers. This can help them stay ahead of the curve and respond to changing market trends and consumer preferences.
Investing in research and development can also help exporters develop new technologies and production processes, which can help to reduce costs, improve quality, and increase efficiency.
What’s the right way to outpace competition?
The short and concluding answer is that there is no right way, but equally, there is no wrong way either. Ultimately, your success as an exporter is down to the strategy or strategies that you implement collectively to push your business ahead of your competitors.
It’s important to remember you have access to plenty of digital supply chain tools, many of which are accessible from the comfort of your own home, which can lend a helping hand in your quest to branch out beyond your home country’s shores.