Expanding into a new foreign market – whether that is China, Japan, or any other country – can be potentially very profitable for your brand. However, it may be difficult to find success without proper research and planning: this is where market entry strategies come into play.
What is a market entry strategy?
A market entry strategy helps you navigate the complexities of exploring and moving into your target country. The best market entry strategies provide in-depth insights into the market, uncover hidden opportunities, and create an outline for when, where, and how you sell what to whom.
What is the best market entry strategy?
The most important element for any market entry strategy framework is to be tailored to your brand and the country you want to enter. It must have a good grasp of how your category operates as well as how local consumers think and behave in that specific cultural context in order to be genuinely useful and successful. Even neighbouring countries like Japan and China have their own peculiarities that need to be taken into consideration for each – you can read about them more here.
To develop a successful market entry that is built on a clear understanding of the target market, here are five ingredients that you should include in your market entry strategy creation process.
Ingredient #1: Map the Category
Figuring out the lay of the land is fundamental to any market entry strategy. How does your product/service category look like in your target market? Answering this question will give you a good sense of the competition and whether or not you would like to enter this market in the first place.
Market research such as consumer interviews, desk and in-store research, ethnography, and quantitative surveys can collect the information you need to understand the status quo of the category. While each methodology has their pros and cons (you can learn more about that here), the resulting knowledge should give you a good sense for, including:
- What space are you playing in?
- How big is the market?
- What products exist?
- What trends and patterns shape the category?
- Are there any regulatory requirements and others that structure the market?
- Who are the key players?
- What do they claim?
- What is their USP (Unique Selling Proposition)?
- How do they reach and appeal to consumers?
We at Yuzu Kyodai like to map the results and create a mapping of the category, which helps visualise where your competitors are, where the white spaces are, and where you want your brand to be in one glance.
Ingredient #2: Position Your Brand
Once you have analysed the information from your market research, it is time to define where you should position yourself. Take a look at the map you created in Ingredient #1 – is there a space that seems appealing for your brand?
Now that you have a clear space in mind, you can start determining details in your marketing plan, such as:
- What are the best channels for you?
e.g. For food products: supermarket, premium supermarket, department store, your own physical store, your own online store, e-commerce platform, …
- Do you want a local distributor?
- Do you want to partner with a local business?
- Who is your target consumer?
- Who are your lead consumers?
- Who are your early adopters?
- What are their characteristics? Are there any commonalities they share?
- How should you reach your target consumer?
e.g. Physical ads, social media (which platform; ads, campaigns, etc), TVCM, events, celebrities/influencers, …
The above business decisions will naturally form the basics of your market entry strategy. However, there is more to a successful market entry strategy than just operational details – you will need to make your product or service appealing in/to your chosen channel/audience.
Ingredient #3: Localise Your Language
Localising your brand’s language is vital for communicating to your target consumer in a relevant way. Any brand wants to catch consumers’ attention while, of course, not breaking any cultural taboos. However, can your brand go beyond that and actually be relatable to the local audience?
Don’t just translate your content. Make yourself at home by localising your messaging:
- Which of your USPs should you push in the market?
- How can you convey it best?
- What are the phrases consumers like or are familiar with?
- What are the phrases consumers dislike or are unfamiliar with?
- Are there any slangs or dialects you should know of?
- Be culturally resonant – see Ingredient #5
To ensure further success, you can also conduct qualitative or quantitative research to test your choices with local consumers before launching your brand in the new market.
Ingredient #4: Localise Your Visual Language
Alongside verbal language, your visual language should look and feel relevant to local consumers as well. This does not mean, however, a complete redo of your visuals. Even partial adjustments can be a game-changer for how your brand will be received.
Localise your visual language by, for example:
- Full or partial packaging & design localisation
- Adjusting the label for the market – you can also instead utilise stickers, POS/POP (Point of Sale/Purchase) displays, etc
- Adapting to local holidays or festivals
- Website graphics, models, pricing and measurement displays, …
- Be culturally resonant – see Ingredient #5
Visual comms, to some extent, need to be effective in communicating all of the elements determined throughout Ingredients #1-3. However, remember to not lose your DNA either!
Ingredient #5: Be Part of Culture
The most important thing for any brand is to be relevant in everyday life, not a curiosity consumers may only try once. To truly understand the country you want to enter, one effective way is using semiotics, a market research tool that focuses on uncovering cultural norms and nuances that shape consumer behaviour.
By decoding the local culture, your brand can:
- Define what you stand for
- Define what’s uniquely you that you offer to the new market
- Understand the ‘potential’ of your ideas with greater clarity
- Appeal to consumers on a fundamental, subconscious level
Just because a product is foreign does not mean it cannot connect with local consumers on a deeply emotional level. It is simply a matter of knowing how the relevant themes are being intuitively understood by your target audience and adapting (not assimilating!) how you express your brand to match those cultural nuances. While this is of course easier said than done, it is what semiotics does best – decoding every-day signs (habits, ideas, etc) to uncover cultural truths.
We believe successful products don’t just sit on a shelf but engage with and are part of the culture around them.
Interested in expanding your brand to Japan, China, or Southeast Asia? We’re here to help!
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for any market entry inquiries.