Here's how entrepreneurs can think about entering new markets in a connected world

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This is an excerpt from ‘Australia’s Business Challenges 2017’ — a comprehensive must-read e-book for small business owners brought to you by Bank of Queensland. Scroll down to download a copy.

Looking at the headlines, the pace of globalisation driven by technological change has created waves of uncertainty for businesses large and small. But along with a shrinking world has come the opportunity for entering, discovering, and creating new markets as barriers move or dissolve entirely in this ever-shifting environment.

Where once a local market stall or hand-delivered brochures were the perfect start to building awareness of your product and provide a stepping stone to bigger and better things, in the digital age these same connections can be made virtually anywhere.

If you can create the right product at the right price you will always find a buyer. And just like establishing trust and rapport behind the counter or with a client in person, these same basic business values matter and endure online. It’s just that doing it digitally can give you access to a much wider base with more opportunities to scale faster than ever before.

As well as crossing geographic borders, increased knowledge of your buyers’ habits gained from social networking and other digital tools mean market segmentation is also becoming more sophisticated. Instead of just guessing what your customer is thinking the data is there to start thinking about a whole new market entirely.

The recent reaction to Amazon’s latest expansion shows exactly how disruptive such thinking can be. After starting as an online bookseller in the 1990s, the retailing giant is now one of the top tech companies dominating our lives.

The company’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods for $US13.7 billion – its largest ever – signals a serious move into grocery stores in the physical realm, which follows a slow rollout of bricks and mortar book stores in the US.

The Whole Foods play is the latest in a line that includes cloud computing services, logistics and entertainment.

The company has a clear philosophy of upending any sector they get involved in. For Amazon, the so-called “everything store” dubbed a “country killer” by analysts, it seems nothing is off-limits when forging new markets for their business.

Rather than being rattled by the inevitable, think of the digital ecosystem as a place where ideas about developing and expanding into new markets can naturally thrive more easily than ever. It just depends on embracing the opportunity and becoming engaged with the ever-shifting digital future.

Facebook’s Director of Brand, Naomi Shepherd, says 180 million people around the world are connected to a business in Australia through Facebook – mostly through their mobile devices – and small businesses are well-placed to move quickly to find new markets.

“The possibilities really are borderless,” Shepherd says. “You can reach people in India tomorrow if you want to – that’s very easy to do. You can reach people around the block or around the globe. Reaching people isn’t the problem – it’s understanding what people need and being able to meet it.

“Facebook and Instagram can be used to make a small business seem like a much larger business. Interact with customers and find out what they want. The minute you start posting all that information on how your customers are reacting is instantly available – and that’s gold.

You’ve got a better ability now to create a product and a service for an unmet need. That’s when a business grows – when you become customer-obsessed.”

So whether your new market is created through a new product, or taking your local goods global, it’s how you think about playing the opportunities unlocked in the digital environment that is key.

This is an excerpt from ‘Australia’s Business Challenges 2017’ — a comprehensive must-read e-book for small business owners brought to you by Bank of Queensland. To download a copy, fill in your details in the form below.

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