In order to detect relevant information for international trade, it is essential to have the help of tools and applications for each stage of internationalization. The contribution of technology in the internationalization processes of companies is increasingly important. Obstacles to access international markets are being reduced thanks to the Internet and easy access to information and tools that are increasingly affordable.
Smaller SMEs are increasingly approaching international business with success thanks to a wide range of technological business management tools . Many of these tools and applications are available online or in the cloud, they can be free to use (opensource ) or they can be purchased at affordable prices . With these digital tools it is possible to minimize a large part of the economic and commercial risks of exports, and they optimize complex processes with enormous amounts of information to be processed and exploited, essential for decision-making and operational efficiency .
ICT tools are essential to design and develop an internationalization plan and improve performance each phase of the process, from the first steps in market research, the countries’ study to export to, until the commercial operation is completed. with the delivery of the merchandise.
Here are the Top 5 International Trade & Product Sourcing tools:
The four major phases of an internationalization project:
In internationalization processes, large volumes of information and data are handled, which are used to make decisions at each step. The different technologies and tools serve to manage this volume of information more efficiently, not only to market products but also to capture informational resources and progressively increase the involvement and global projection of the company. In each of the four major phases of internationalization , different technologies appropriate to the needs of each phase can be applied:
- Market identification: companies need to answer questions about available resources, such as the type of strategy to adopt, or the risks and opportunities of internationalization . Many times these questions are addressed with own or external information with a great investment of time and manual information management processes.
- Product promotion: Once the decision to internationalize has been made and the destination market or markets have been decided, the organization faces the promotion of its products or services in those markets. It is necessary to study the ideal customer and make decisions about the product and its need for adaptation, in addition to increasing the visibility of the products and the company among potential customers.
- International sales: once the destination markets have been decided and clients identified, the company must decide what its sales channels are and optimize them. Apart from the traditional methods of accessing the foreign market (commercial representatives, local partners, distributors), the Internet opens up more possibilities to complement exports or business implantations.
- International management : The management of the information generated during the internationalization process begins already in the market selection phase and will continue throughout the cycle, coming from various sources, such as potential clients or leads, offers and sales made, suppliers, agents and intermediaries abroad, commercial, offices established abroad, online store, operations carried out in marketplaces, results of online marketing, etc.
Enabling technologies and tools in each phase:
Identification of markets:
with the function of estimating costs, assessing the resources necessary for internationalization, and selecting the most appropriate markets or access strategy:
Business Intelligence: a set of methodologies and ICT applications that allow companies to gather, refine and transform the information obtained from various internal sources into structured information.
-Integral Dashboards (CMI): Software tool that allows to manage traditional financial indicators of the different departments (inventories, fixed assets, income, expenses, …), the intangible assets of a company (customer relations, skills and employee motivations, etc.) as the primary source of competitive advantage.
-Decision Support Systems (DSS): Complementary software tool to management programs (ERPs ), which allows you to delve into data, navigate it or display it from different perspectives.
-Executive Information Systems (EIS): Tool based on a DSS, aimed at managers who can easily access a summary of the behavior of an organization or specific area , and be able to compare it over time.
Competitive surveillance for internationalization: it serves to observe the environment, oriented to decision making . Surveillance can be technological, commercial, competitive or related to the socio-economic environment.
Some examples are:
- Internet search engines: Google, local (by country): Google.uk, Google.fr, Baidu (China), Yandex (Russia) etc,
- Alert systems: RSS readers, Google Alerts, Google CSE, etc.
- Specialized surveillance software for comprehensive information management
to generate and promote the organization’s brand image, make itself known, improve the visibility of the brand in the network, identify the target audience and know their needs (segmentation), attract users and influx to corporate channels, generate an ROI o positive return on investment and promoting the product or service (online catalogs, technical description of the product or service, etc.)
Digital marketing for internationalization: it is a set of marketing techniques that are executed in media and internet channels.
Some tools are:
- Multi-language corporate websites, with the target languages
- Internet search engines: Google, local (by country): Google.uk, Google.fr, Baidu (China), Yandex (Russia), etc.,
- Seo positioning tactics (web optimization, navigation structure, responsive support.)
- Tools for SEO positioning: Google Adwords (keyword search engine)
- Tools for SEM positioning: Yllix, Adversal, etc.
- E-mail marketing tools: MailChimp, GetResponse, etc.
- Tools for content marketing (create websites and blogs): WordPress, Blogspot, Wix, Weebly, etc.
Social networks: platforms that build links between people , allowing them to share information and content. They have become an essential digital marketing channel and support for internationalization and to generate traffic to the corporate website. The areas of action are:
- Social Media Optimization (SMO): actions carried out on the corporate website in social media for the promotion, dissemination and viralization of content efficiently, for example by inserting the icons and hyperlinks of the different social networks, as well as linking the networks with each other, have buttons to share content easily.
- Social Media Marketing (SMM). These are the actions carried out on Social Networks with the ultimate objective of directing the user to the corporate website and attracting their attention to the product or service, turning them into potential buyers, and even immediate buyers (online stores).
Some examples of tools are:
- Generalist, professional and microblogging platforms: Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter
- Audiovisual content
- platforms: Instagram, Snapchat, Youtube
- Other platforms: Pinterest, Periscope, Flickr, Telegram
- Native Social Media metric tools: Facebook Analytics, Twitter, Linkedin, Youtube, Pinterest
- Other metric tools: Google Analytics (for Webs and Blogs), Klout, Klear, Alianzo, Grytics, Hootsuite Pro, etc.
for a reduction in operating costs in sales, greater control over sales and stock, greater ability to reach potential customers globally , 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, security and speed in payment through gateways online, information by monitoring and analyzing the buying habits and consultation of users, greater visibility and attention to potential customers, an online store as a catalog and as a direct sales channel to customers.
Electronic commerce for internationalization: e-commerce consists of the distribution, sale, marketing and supply of information about products or services through the Internet, that is, an own online store , using electronic means of payment. The structure of a website for international e-commerce normally consists of the following basic sections : Company information in the languages of the target markets, catalog in the languages of the target markets, order processor, and multi-currency payment gateway.
Some tools are:
- E-commerce platforms: such as Shopify, Bigcommerce, Volusion, Zepo, Kartrocket
- E-commerce CMS opensource: Magento, Prestashop, Opencart
- Other e-commerce CMS (not opensource): Woocommerce, Oscommerce, Drupal commerce
Electronic markets for internationalization: these are online platforms managed by neutral intermediaries in which products from different businesses, brands, companies and even users are sold. It allows to reduce infrastructure costs, collection management, logistics, digital marketing, etc.
-Global Marketplaces: eBay, Alibaba, Amazon
-Local Marketplaces: SeNegocia (Chile), Rakuten (Japan), Rusmarket (Russia), etc-
sectorSectoral Marketplaces: Global Wine Spirits (alcoholic beverage sector), Booking.com (reservation sector hotels), Privalia
Surveillance of international tenders: detecting opportunities in the international and multilateral public procurement sector represents a great opportunity for SMEs in the international market. It is advisable to have a surveillance plan for international tenders that can be incorporated into the general competitive surveillance plan through tools such as:
-Specialized software for surveillance
– RSS readers
One of the most important tasks for the correct management of international trade is the administration of all this information collected throughout all the preparation processes and different phases of the sale, which will provide valuable knowledge. International trade introduces factors in the company that should be centralized for better management and control .
ERP for internationalization: integrated business management software, and is defined as a group of modules connected to a single database. Today there are numerous ERP solutions available on the market, standardized, or custom-developed by local software providers that also provide training and implementation services. There are also Best of Breed software solutions , which complement the standardized functionalities of an ERP, depending on the specific needs of each company.
CRM for internationalization: technological platform, which, combined with the appropriate methodology, allows companies to efficiently manage the relationship with their clients , as well as exploit the information that they generate for the company. Prospecting for new markets is a task that requires help from the field of new markets, that is, the identification of target customers, customer service, e-mail marketing, interaction monitoring, tracking of “leads” (visits attracted to the page Corporate website through targeted digital marketing campaigns)
Cloud computing for internationalization: a technology that allows data storage on virtual servers . Its main advantage for SMEs is that it takes advantage of the connectivity and the mega-scale of the Internet, and among its strengths is the possibility of accessing the information and the tool from any location, device and time zone, and in real time, democratizing the access to world-class software products, in a multi-user environment.
logistics tricks to be competitive
1. Application of technology in the supply chain
These are tools that facilitate visibility in the supply chain, providing information about the processes and improving the exchange of data between all members of the chain.
Some of the basic systems are:
RFID management systems :
S&OP and CPFR radio frequency identification systems : they are B2B technologies and assist in order processing in the delivery of products
TMS: transportation management. It is used in collaborative relationships with carriers, suppliers and clients
CGA: Warehouse Management System
2. Inventory management
The main objective of this practice is to ensure the availability of materials and products to satisfy the demand. Here the key is to define processes to efficiently manage the products.
– Use coding practices to identify materials and products. It facilitates standardization and is essential for quality processes.
– Use classification practices (for example, ABC to classify materials according to their importance).
– Manage stocks in a synchronized manner for inventory optimization.
– Implement the just-in-time policy to keep inventories at good levels and reduce storage costs.
– Take advantage of the postponement strategy, which allows delaying the customization of the product to the maximum, to better respond to demand.
– Invite suppliers to manage inventories. This is called VMI and the goal is to improve the manufacturer’s service to the end customer.
– Acquire advanced planning systems (APS) software to solve problems in the supply chain.
3. Warehouse management
In some companies, the warehouse can account for up to 60 percent of costs. Learning to manage it is key to competitiveness. How can you do it? Here are some ideas:
1. Use automatic collection systems that increase the efficiency of resources related to warehouse management.
2. Strategically plan the supply network. Find the most economical way to send and receive the product, maintaining quality and customer service.
3. Use shared warehouses. It is recommended for SMEs that have changing geography, as it allows them to be flexible.
4. Have buffer stores. They allow a more dynamic distribution and ensure a quick response.
4. Transport management
This area usually represents high costs in organizations, so improving its management is essential for competitiveness. This includes implementing network design strategies and some of the best practices are:
– Traceability of the cold chain. This point is key in the food chain as it is responsible for controlling the temperature throughout the distribution process.
– Traceability and security throughout the supply chain. This will help you to know the history, location and trajectory of a product for control of stocks and production and coordination with distributors.
– Use of Crossdocking. It has advantages such as daily deliveries to stores, control of the chain, accuracy in deliveries and savings in transport.
– Use of multimodal transport. It is efficient for the transport of materials and products. It also facilitates international transportation.
–Groupage Implementation. It is used in rail and road transport, by means of a load for several companies. It serves to reduce rates and limit the risk of the client.
– Outsourcing. Outsourcing this process allows you to reduce costs and improve efficiency.
– Reverse logistics. They are all the processes and activities to manage the return and recycling.
5. Outsourcing of logistics services
The outsourcing of these processes is a good practice to improve competitiveness. This includes carriers, logistics service providers, and integrated service providers. Specialists use advanced technology, with the intention of providing the best service, such as electronic communication tools. For this scheme to work, you need to implement collaborative practices with these providers. Costs will decrease and your efficiency will increase.
6. Supply management
At this point, good planning is required to improve coordination between supplier and customer. Take note of some of the best practices:
– Include purchasing management in the planning of the company, to align them with the business objectives.
– The supply area must know the business strategy. This to choose the most appropriate management for the company. The sourcing function, in terms of costs, quality and service levels of the suppliers, should be chosen based on the business strategy.
– Performance should be measured according to the contribution to the business. In other words, having clear metrics to identify the relationship between good purchasing management and results.
7. Use metrics
As in any area of the business, logistics requires measurement and feedback, using indicators such as Inventory Turnover, Cost of Goods Sold and Return on Assets.
Here are some tips you can follow:
– Use the SCOR model to have objective measurements of the supply chain.
– Consider logistics costs as part of sales (generally they are between 8 and 10%).
– Define the number of deliveries on time. It is measured as the proportion of the product that the customer received on time to all the product that was sent to him by the supplier.
– Measure the days of inventory. That is, the efficiency of the inventory and the days of rotation.
8. The relationship with suppliers in the supply chain
It is necessary to integrate business processes to respond correctly to the customer. For this, it is necessary to achieve collaboration between all members of the supply chain, through mutual trust and the exchange of information.
– Assign staff to manage the relationship with suppliers.
– Deliver timely feedback to suppliers regarding their performance.
– Measure the customer’s perception of the supplier.
– Establish long-term contracts that benefit both parties.
– Facilitate mutual cooperation.
– Have regular meetings to understand your expectations and concerns.
– Share long-term business plans.