With no barriers to trade and business within the European Union, Polish companies are tempted to expand abroad. There is no one universal strategy for how best to enter a given market. It all depends on the industry and the preferences of local customers. The most common problems encountered by Polish e-commerce businesses when entering foreign markets include: lack of knowledge of the local market, lack of a coherent strategy or lack of a market-specific offer. Here is our advice on how to avoid them!

Lack of local market knowledge

Failure to understand the local market can include ignoring the preferences of customers in a particular country. For example, neighbouring Poland and Slovakia may have similar purchasing power, levels of digitalisation and even online shopping habits.  Although the preferred forms of delivery or payment methods may vary, through seamless integration with existing platforms, online retailers can easily extend the range of their services to meet the expectations of their target market.

Before entering a particular market, companies should get to know their potential customers, for example through:

  • Local online surveys of consumer preferences or international market research;
  • Own research (if budget allows);
  • Reports prepared for Polish exporters (e.g. available on Trade.gov.pl).

Using Poland and Slovakia as an example, these countries are home to Apaczka and Zaslat – online platforms offering courier services, both part of the Alsendo Group, a leader in logistics and technological solutions for businesses. 

Another similar mistake involves failing to research potential competitors in a given country. If the market is saturated, it will be difficult to get a slice of the local pie without a lot of investment and competing with strong, established players. Local regulations are a separate issue, but this is not relevant for the e-commerce and trading industry within the European Union, where uniform regulations apply.

Lack of a coherent strategy

The mistake of adopting the wrong strategy often stems directly from the first point, which is unfamiliarity with the market. For example, a marketing strategy that may have worked well in Poland will not always be successful in a neighbouring country – even one that shares the same culture. Consumers in each country make purchasing decisions based on different factors.

An offering that is not adapted to market needs

This brings us to the third mistake, which is failing to adapt the product range to the needs of local consumers. When expanding abroad, retailers need to keep in mind that an offering that works in Poland will not always be successful even in neighbouring countries such as Slovakia or the Czech Republic.  This is due to different needs, shopping patterns and consumer habits. In many industries, pricing strategy can also make a huge difference to sales. When selling abroad, it is important to remember that people in some countries may buy more premium brands than others. This mainly depends on their level of income. Consumers in less affluent areas will be looking for ways to save money.

Lack of experienced business partners and tools

Working with local providers is a good strategy for entering a foreign market. A local marketing agency is by its very nature familiar with the consumers for whom it develops communications on a day-to-day basis. A local law firm will have a very good knowledge of local law. When exporting, it is worth considering working with a foreign distributor to get products to buyers more easily, even if the margin is lower.

When it comes to tools, e-commerce retailing is a good example. If a company does not invest in a local warehouse, it will need to use tools to enable efficient cross-border deliveries. Polish retailers can benefit from the support of Alsendo Group companies, using services such as Apaczka Germany or Innoship software, which allows automated allocation of shipments to carriers, speeding up delivery times and reducing costs.

In an age of easy access to information and sophisticated tools, it is really not worth risking potential mistakes when expanding into foreign markets.