From increasing adoption of smart technology to more highly developed e-commerce sites, 2014 paved the way for better communication and improved business operations between international companies. These rising trends, along with an increased emphasis on leveraging technology to reach consumers in different countries, have made 2015 the year to go global.
Business globalization presents a wealth of opportunities for small-business owners, including a drastically larger pool of potential buyers, greater understanding of global cultures and more streamlined processes across the board. If you are contemplating whether you should take your brand global in 2015, consider how the following five trends could impact your international endeavors.
"The IMF predicted world output will grow by 3.8 percent in 2015."
1. Businesses are poised for economic growth in 2015
Although global economies are still in a state of recovery after a tumultuous decade, many regions have shown impressive financial growth in the past couple of years. The most recent IMF forecast predicts the world output will grow by 3.8 percent in 2015, demonstrating a 0.5 percent increase from the previous year. Specifically, the report noted that Africa as well as South and East Asia are poised for the most impressive growth throughout the new year.
As the world population continues to rise, experts predict businesses will continue to work to meet rising supply and demand levels. The United Nations Population Fund reported that there are more than 1.8 billion youth in the world, noting that in just a few short years, these individuals will have a substantial impact on their nations' economies. As these youths become adults, their increased purchasing power will present significant opportunities for businesses that have taken steps to establish themselves as influential international brands.
2. Companies – and consumers – have increased spending power
Improving global economies have not only equipped international buyers with greater disposable incomes, but also strengthened relationships between companies operating across the borders. David Seaton, the CEO of global engineering firm Fluor, explained to The Wall Street Journal that his firm is optimistic about growth in 2015, as he projects spending will increase during the year.
"Global economic growth continues to improve, leading our clients to spend more on capital, upgrading, maintaining and expanding their infrastructure," Seaton said.
For companies that are looking to take advantage of the increased spending power of international clients – whether they be businesses or consumers – developing high-quality e-commerce sites is key. According to the 2013 Global Consumer Trends report released by Euromonitor International, more than 80 percent of overseas consumers have shopped online. Additionally, the report found that the majority of respondents preferred this form of purchasing, as the convenience presented by the platform was preferable to physically visiting stores. As more individuals look to spend money online, businesses should invest in professional translation services that can generate accurate website copy to best reach specific regions.
3. Mobile continues to reign supreme
There is no denying how greatly mobile devices impacted businesses in 2014. From developing store-specific apps to ensuring sites are optimized for smartphones and tablets, companies placed a heavy emphasis on ensuring consumers from across the world could access and interact with content on mobile devices. Research firm Gartner predicted that by 2020, there will be a 30-fold increase in the number of physical devices connected to the Internet. While mobile adoption may cause businesses to place a greater emphasis on cybersecurity, it presents a significant number of opportunities for consumers who are on the go or purchasing from different countries.
As with your business' website, investing in app translation is equally imperative for companies looking to go global. Researchers have found that consumers are more likely to purchase when apps are in their native language. So as your brand develops an app to reach the ever-growing group of mobile adopters, be sure to create options for consumers who speak different languages.
4. Changes in international policies make business between borders easier
President Barack Obama caused a stir at the end of 2014 when he announced that the U.S. would resume diplomatic relations with Cuba. Since 1960, the U.S. has halted both imports and exports to Cuba, but the president recently announced plans for a deal with the nation that would allow safer passage for travelers and potentially open the door for trade in the future. While Obama still requires approval from Congress to resume business operations, the U.S. is not the only nation that may enact policies that work in international business owners' favor.
China announced that it would crack down on illegal businesses in 2015. This includes shutting down non-sanctioned corporations and disbanding illegal or corrupt companies. Specifically, the nation has placed a heavy emphasis on ensuring any foreign partners are of the highest quality. This means any companies looking to reach the Chinese market should place business language localization toward the top of their to-do list, as one of the best ways to establish your brand as reputable in a new nation is by communicating accurately.
"Research firm PwC predicted the sharing economy will generate $335 billion by 2025."
5. Sharing economy presents growth opportunity for international businesses
Peer-to-peer services have had a significant impact on the global economy. Research firm PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that businesses that take part in the sharing economy could generate $335 billion annual by 2025. Companies that use a peer-to-peer business model – including ride-sharing business Uber and rental company Airbnb – experienced substantial financial success in 2014.
This sharing economy has impacted the way domestic and international businesses correspond. John Hawksworth, a chief economist at PwC, explained that these companies not only positively impact the economy, but they present valuable learning opportunities to businesses both large and small.
"Looking beyond the sectors where sharing is already well established, there are some very exciting growth opportunities that are yet to be fully realized: Companies need to do an audit of which of their tangible and intangible assets could profitably be shared in the future. We think this model could spread to other sectors such as energy, telecoms and retailing," Hawksworth said.