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1. What are market entry strategies?

13 International market entry strategies for ecommerce businesses

Expanding internationally can be a game-changer for businesses looking to grow and maximize their potential.

Understanding the various approaches to entering new markets is vital for achieving sustainable growth and competitive advantage for small and large businesses alike. However, entering unfamiliar territories comes with its own set of challenges and complexities.

Whether you're a budding entrepreneur or an established business owner, this article will provide valuable information and guidance to help you tap into untapped markets and position your business for international success.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Market entry strategies are crucial for businesses seeking to expand into new markets, as they provide a systematic approach to entering unfamiliar territories and minimizing risks.

  • Successful market entry strategies allow businesses to establish a strong presence, build a competitive advantage, and tap into new customer bases, ultimately driving sustainable growth and global expansion.

  • There are various strategies to consider when expanding to new markets. Each method offers unique advantages and considerations depending on factors such as market characteristics, resources, and risk tolerance.

  • Careful analysis of target markets is essential when selecting the most appropriate market entry strategy.

What are market entry strategies?

02_What are market entry strategies

Market entry strategies encompass the various plans and actions a business implements when introducing its products or services into a particular market. Whether the market is a foreign country, a new customer segment, or an entirely new industry, these strategies are crucial to effectively navigate the challenges of unfamiliar territories.

Why do market entry strategies matter?

Market entry strategies play a pivotal role in the success of businesses seeking to expand their operations globally. They provide a structured approach to entering new markets, which can significantly impact a company's growth trajectory and long-term sustainability.

The choice of strategy determines the level of control, risks, costs, and potential rewards associated with market expansion. A well-executed international market entry strategy can help companies navigate regulatory, cultural, and competitive challenges, seize market opportunities, and gain a competitive edge, ultimately driving growth and profitability.

13 types of market entry strategies

03_13 types of market entry strategies

Now, let's dive into the different market entry strategies available to businesses, each offering unique approaches to navigating the complexities of international expansion.

1. Exporting

Exporting is a straightforward market entry strategy where a business sells its products in a foreign market, either through direct exporting or indirect exporting.

This method involves lower risk and investment compared to other market entry strategies. However, businesses need to understand export regulations, tariffs, and international trade laws. Additionally, cultural, language, and logistics barriers can pose challenges.

2. Licensing

Licensing allows companies to expand overseas without the need for large capital outlay.

In this strategy, a firm (licensor) grants another firm (licensee) the right to use its intellectual property, brand, or technology in a foreign market. While this mitigates risks and operational hassles, it might lead to less control over the brand and potential quality issues.

3. Franchising

Franchising involves a company (franchisor) allowing another entity (franchisee) to operate under its brand name in exchange for a fee.

This strategy offers rapid expansion with minimal investment, but the franchisor has less operational control and relies on the franchisee's success.

4. Partnerships

Partnerships entail collaboration between two or more businesses to achieve shared objectives.

A company can partner with a local firm in the new market to gain insights, share resources, and increase its customer base. However, conflicts and disagreements can arise, highlighting the need for well-defined partnership agreements.

5. Joint ventures

A joint venture is a type of collaboration where two or more parties come together to create a new entity or project. Though similar to a partnership, these strategies differ in that partnerships entail collaboration without the creation of a new entity or project.

Joint ventures allow businesses to share risks and costs and gain access to each other's expertise and local market knowledge. However, issues such as cultural differences, disagreements on strategy, and profit sharing can be challenging.

6. Countertrade

Countertrade is an agreement between two parties to exchange goods or services without the use of currency. This strategy allows businesses to enter markets with limited access to foreign currency or strict trade regulations.

While countertrade can provide access to untapped markets, it might involve complex negotiations and potential issues with valuing the exchange.

7. Direct investment

Direct investment involves a company making a substantial investment in a foreign market, such as building manufacturing facilities or acquiring a foreign business.

This approach offers high control but also exposes the company to significant risks, including political and economic instability.

8. Subsidiaries

Creating a subsidiary involves establishing a separate legal entity in the foreign market.

This strategy offers control over operations, direct access to customers, and the potential to deeply understand the local market. However, it requires significant investment and exposure to local market risks.

9. Greenfield investment

Greenfield investment refers to a company building its operations from scratch in a foreign market.

The parent company retains full control over its foreign operations, but this strategy requires a significant investment and time commitment. It also comes with a higher degree of risk due to potential legal, cultural, and economic differences in the new market.

10. Turnkey projects

Turnkey projects involve a company designing, constructing, and testing a production facility for a client.

Once the project is operational, the client takes over the management. This allows companies to enter foreign markets with lower risks and investments.

However, this approach yields only short-term profits and does not provide a long-term presence in the market.

11. Piggybacking

Piggybacking is a low-cost market entry strategy where a small company partners with a larger one to sell its products in a foreign market. The smaller company can access new markets without the need for a significant investment, but it has less control over its products and relies heavily on the larger company.

12. Outsourcing

Outsourcing involves hiring another company to perform certain business functions. This strategy allows businesses to focus on core competencies while reducing costs.

However, it involves risks such as lack of control over the outsourced function, quality issues, and reliance on the outsourcing partner.

13. Ecommerce

Ecommerce offers a low-cost, low-risk way to enter new markets by selling products online. Businesses can reach a global audience without the need for a physical presence or a substantial investment.

However, challenges can include local regulations, logistics, cultural differences, and establishing online visibility.

Market entry strategy for small businesses vs. large enterprises

04_How to choose the right strategy for market entry

The approach to market entry can significantly vary between small businesses and large enterprises due to differences in resources, risk tolerance, and scalability.

Small businesses often prioritize cost-effective and low-risk strategies due to limited resources and their growth stage. They may use ecommerce, piggybacking, or partnerships to mitigate financial risk and leverage the established market presence of more prominent partners. These approaches allow small businesses to test the waters, gradually build their customer base, and learn from the new market before making more significant investments.

In contrast, large enterprises typically have the resources and capacity to pursue more capital-intensive and direct market entry strategies. They often choose to invest in subsidiaries, make direct investments, or establish joint ventures. These approaches offer a higher degree of control over the new market operations and the potential for larger returns on investment. However, they also involve higher risks, a significant commitment of resources, and a thorough understanding of the new market's dynamics.

How to choose the right strategy for market entry

Choosing the right strategy for market entry is pivotal to your business's success in a new market. Here are some crucial steps to consider:

  1. Understand your business: Identify your strengths, weaknesses, and unique selling proposition. Understand the scalability of your operations and the resources at your disposal.

  2. Market research: Comprehensive research of the target market is crucial. Understand the demographic, cultural, economic, and regulatory landscape. Identify potential competitors and customer needs.

  3. Assess risks: Every market entry strategy has inherent risks, be it financial, operational, or strategic. Assess the potential risks associated with each strategy and your business's capacity to manage them.

  4. Evaluate resources: Your chosen strategy should align with your available resources. For instance, direct investment requires substantial financial resources, while outsourcing or licensing may be more suited to businesses with limited resources.

  5. Define goals: Determine what you hope to achieve with the market entry–quick expansion, long-term market presence, testing a new product, etc. Your goals will significantly influence your strategy.

  6. Flexibility: Be prepared to adapt your strategy as you gain experience in the new market.

Whether a small business or a large enterprise, the key to a successful market entry strategy is thorough research, understanding of the targeted market, and careful planning and execution. Be prepared to adapt your strategy based on the market response and changing conditions.

Using localized production and fulfillment to enter new markets

05_Using localized production and fulfillment to enter new markets

By utilizing localized fulfillment, businesses can strategically position inventory in key regions, reducing shipping costs and delivery times. This approach enables businesses to offer faster and more reliable service to customers, fostering positive experiences and loyalty.

Additionally, localized fulfillment allows businesses to navigate potential customs and regulatory challenges, ensuring smooth operations and minimizing delays.

The power of print on demand for market entry

Print on demand (POD) offers highly favorable localized production as it allows businesses to create and fulfill custom products in multiple locations worldwide, eliminating the need for inventory and minimizing shipping distances.

This model allows businesses to offer a wide range of customizable products, like wall art, apparel, and accessories, that are produced only after a customer places an order. Therefore, businesses can avoid the traditional risks associated with inventory management, such as overproduction or unsold stock.

Establishing a POD business with localized fulfillment offers a unique value proposition that can differentiate your brand in new markets.

Plus, we integrate seamlessly with major ecommerce platforms and offer a print on demand API to further streamline your expansion efforts.

Gelato is a leading global print on demand platform that empowers businesses to leverage this effective market entry strategy. With production hubs all over the world, businesses can seamlessly fulfill orders closer to their customers, ensuring faster delivery and reducing shipping costs.

Unlock global success with Gelato

Choosing the right market entry strategy is crucial for businesses seeking to expand their operations globally. By carefully analyzing target markets, understanding local preferences, and assessing risks and opportunities, companies can position themselves for global success.

To leverage the vast opportunities in international markets, businesses can turn to Gelato.

Gelato's extensive network of 130+ production hubs in 32 countries enables businesses to produce and deliver custom products closer to their customers worldwide. By partnering with Gelato, businesses can tap into local markets, offer personalized products, and benefit from streamlined logistics and efficient delivery.

Unlock the full potential of your business with Gelato.

Market entry strategy FAQs

What is a market entry strategy?

A market entry strategy is a plan or approach that a company adopts to enter a new market. It involves identifying and evaluating opportunities, understanding the target market, and developing strategies to establish a foothold in the market. Market entry strategies can include various tactics such as direct exports, licensing agreements, joint ventures, acquisitions, or establishing a local subsidiary.

What are the five international market entry strategies?

The five most common international market entry strategies are:

  1. Exporting: Selling products or services directly to customers in foreign markets.

  2. Licensing: Granting a foreign company the rights to produce or distribute products using your intellectual property.

  3. Joint ventures: Partnering with a local company to create a new entity and share resources, risks, and profits.

  4. Franchising: Gaining the rights to do business in a specific territory by leveraging an established company's brand, systems, and support in exchange for fees and royalties.

  5. Foreign direct investment: Establishing a wholly-owned subsidiary or acquiring an existing company in the target market.

Which entry mode is best?

The best entry mode depends on various factors such as the target market, industry, resources, objectives, and risk tolerance of the business. There is no one-size-fits-all approach. 

It's essential to conduct a thorough analysis of the market, competition, legal requirements, and internal capabilities before determining the best entry mode. Consulting with international business experts or conducting market research can provide valuable insights and help your business choose the most suitable entry mode.


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