Scaling your food business internationally with technology
As a food start-up, it is never too early to be ambitious and to embrace an early export focus. International markets are competitive and it’s a challenging direction to take but great benefits will come from building your export business whilst leveraging technology to engage with your customers, manage your distribution channels, provide instant business oversight and automate your admin processes.
Many food start-ups begin selling their products online direct to the consumer through their own website or even through e-commerce platforms. Selling directly through your own website helps to build a deeper relationship with customers, gaining you real time insights and enabling you to test new products. However as you progress, it is vitally important to visualize how best to reach your target customers globally. How these customers are targeted and subsequently how you build a following will be helped by your channel strategy (e.g. how your product moves through the chain of commerce to the consumer). A well planned channel strategy enables a start-up to create desired market reach and increase access to the target overseas customer.
Being online is a vital condition for scaling your company either nationally or internationally. It allows you to distribute content about your products, your company services, your promotional material, capture sales, bill customers etc. Such web processes provide important support to a start-up in its bid for sales growth especially overseas.
If you are selling direct to foreign retailers and food service companies then you will find that most multiple retailers order electronically from suppliers and EDI (electronic data interchange) is an essential tool. Using EDI drives a paperless hands free automation, improving the speed and accuracy of exchanging and processing business documents such as orders and invoices. This digital trading facilitates better relationships with your suppliers and customers alike by eliminating costs associated with manual data entry, lost time and document management.
Another priority especially if you have staff committed to working overseas, is how your in-country staff will communicate and collaborate. Increasingly, small companies are investing in unified communication systems that allow staff to communicate easily among themselves and to also maintain productivity.
The types of unified communications to consider include the following:
- High definition video and voice solutions, including VoIP and web conferencing.
- Collaboration features like screen and file sharing.
- Email integration and voicemail.
- Instant messaging.
- Mobility support for smartphones and laptops.
The threat to all start-ups is quite clear: adapt digitally or wither. As a small business, however, you have a unique advantage over your competition, especially larger businesses. Larger companies often experience greater difficultly in adopting new technologies and also in implementing digital operations due primarily to their existing systems and delays in cross-departmental approvals. So smaller businesses, by adapting and acting promptly can actually ‘steal a march’ on larger entities in the bid for overseas share.
For any food start-up contemplating an international dimension to their business, technology, using a number of robust and innovative solutions, can be an essential differentiating ingredient between a company that prospers, and one that doesn’t.
Get in touch to take your next step towards international growth