Are You Ready to Go International?

When a group of telecommunications companies got together in the late 1990s and decided to create a unified wireless language, which would eventually become the standardized wireless application protocol, there were certain countries who refused to play the game. Japan, for example, created its own competing service called i-MODE. This caused problems in the early days of wireless-connected international business, as companies had to decide whether to favor one service over the other or embrace both competing protocols.

Now, both WAP and i-MODE are outdated, and all laptops, smartphones, and internet-connected devices can connect equally to websites originating from Japan, Ghana, Canada or the United States. Internet protocol has, essentially, become globally standardized. However, this doesn’t mean that the i-MODE vs. WAP problems aren’t popping up in other areas.

Take, for example, your own website’s shopping cart. Does it support international purchases? Many small businesses and entrepreneurs choose the easy way out and only allow purchases within their own country. This causes problems when people from other countries want to become your customers; you have effectively told them that although it is relatively easy to enable international purchases, you don’t care enough about them to take the trouble.

If you do support international purchases, how is your customer service? Do you have representatives available at all hours? Being on the West Coast, it is hard enough for me when I call a company based in New York and get the message that their customer service hours are only until 3 p.m. Eastern time. Imagine if you were in India, or Thailand. Even if you don’t have the staffing power to keep someone on the line 24/7, it’s still important that you have a way for people to contact you and receive a rapid response, no matter where they are located on the globe.

The fact is that we live in a flat, globally-connected world, and even if you didn’t intend for your business to serve international customers, you have to be prepared for them. If your product or service starts taking off, you’ll get Twitter followers, website hits, and potential customers from across the planet. You don’t want those people to put your product in their shopping cart and then learn you don’t do international orders.

Business leaders like William Oduol know about the importance of tapping the international market. Oduol currently works as the Managing Director of Pan Emerging Africa for Westcon Africa, an IT distribution company. Oduol and others like him are working to bring the internet to all areas of Africa, Asia, and other currently disconnected populations.

Earlier this week, for example, we reported that Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy is urging the Indian government to set up social media servers in India to better monitor and distribute social content and prevent people from using social networking sites to spread bullying and violence. The world is increasingly connected, and each group of people wants to use shared sites like Facebook in its own way. As more people connect online, they’re going to want to be able to stream from Netflix, order from Amazon, and maybe even explore your business. You can’t afford not to be ready.

Business-2-community means business to all communities. What has your company done to prepare for international business? Don’t be the holdout business who fails to establish international standards and service. It’s time to join the rest of the world.

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