An American father purchases a toy for his son’s birthday. A student in the U.K. buys a couch for her new flat. A businesswoman in Latin America invests in a new suit.
These are seemingly mundane purchases that happen constantly throughout the world. And typically, consumers view them as such: commonplace and necessary. The father needs a gift for his son; the student needs furniture; the professional wants to look it. They need those items, so they get them. It’s as simple as that.
But what consumers often don’t stop to consider is that without global trade, it would be impossible to swing by the store to get a $20 toy or a discounted futon. Chances are the clothes were made in India, the toys in China, and the furniture in Southeast Asia. These consumers are experiencing the effects of international trade in terms of not only the ability to buy so many different products, but also the reduced price tags on them.
Those small, common purchases reflect a much larger movement in global business. However, expanding internationally can seem intimidating or decidedly untrendy for your business — especially with the “go local” movement being in vogue in certain sectors. In a homogenized world, businesses that adhere to their roots and stand out might seem to have a decided advantage. In many cases, local businesses want to help local economies maintain dollars, jobs, wages, and well-being.
But going global can offer your business more than you might think, including a larger network of potential customers and more resources. What’s more, a global focus can still allow you to give back on a local level — and reap many other benefits for your company as a whole.
Here’s why an international approach may be more strategic than you thought:
1. You have access to a wider market — and more investment opportunities. Global expansion affords you the opportunity to engage with more companies and clients on a much larger scale. You may find profitable new market segments abroad. You also have increased investment opportunities, allowing you to allocate your capital more broadly. This reduces political risk, foreign exchange risk, and, in some cases, economic risk.
2. Global products and services reflect a sum of their parts. A great thing about global business is that it brings together a large number of companies with different histories, cultures, brands, and expertise from around the world to create one robust marketplace. Even as you learn from other businesses’ differences, they’ll be learning from you in a global-scale knowledge exchange.
Perhaps you’ll take a page from a European company in flexible scheduling, or it will glean a tip from you on streamlining organizational processes. The more collaboration and knowledge-sharing that happens, the better off all parties will be for it.
3. More choices mean a more diverse market. Not only do customers have more options, but you also have the opportunity to diversify your product offerings when you go global.
If you’re a food company, you’ll likely tweak your menu offerings for each country, catering to preferred flavor profiles and ingredients. McDonald’s has done just this as it’s expanded its restaurants across the globe. If you’re in the tech world, you might offer different B2B services based on how each region does business. This could uncover new product or client opportunities.
Customers, of course, benefit, too. They enjoy lower prices, thanks to decreases in trade and financial barriers.
4. When you focus on what you do best and most cheaply, everyone wins. Comparative advantage is a core economic principle; when businesses and individuals focus on what they do relatively better, everyone comes out ahead. The same goes for a global business strategy. This expanded strategy allows you to do what you do best and outsource or allocate areas that cost you more money or aren’t as efficient.
Peter Drucker once said, “Make sure your back room is their front room.” By this, he meant that it’s imperative that your business remains focused solely on what it does best.
5. You can still support local business — and on an even bigger scale. A global strategy and local approach may seem mutually exclusive, but they don’t have to be. The Coca-Cola Company, for example, gives back 1 percent of its operating income every year. The Coca-Cola Foundation supports global water stewardship initiatives, community health programs, and recycling efforts, just to name a few.
Google sponsors a number of community programs, including Bay Area Giving, Code for America, and more. Last year alone, more than 6,500 Google employees volunteered 80,000 hours of service. The company has matched $21 million in employee donations to 9,000 organizations worldwide.
“Going local” may be the trend right now, but an increased focus on international relationships shouldn’t take a backseat. Global business offers you an expanded market and helps you play up your strengths, but it isn’t just good for your company. It aids consumers by offering them more choices, increased convenience, and lower prices. And it allows you to give back to your local community on a much larger scale.