One year with COVID-19:
how has cross-border business changed
In the early part of 2020, the world as we know it now was different. Before COVID-19 (BC), global businesses had plans and they worked. While there was some amount of uncertainty, there was no way to predict that just a few months later the world would be facing an event that would change the behaviours of consumers and nations quite so dramatically. The good news is that the dark shroud that is the pandemic is slowly lifting, heralding the arrival of a new era, now referred to as after COVID-19, or AC.
Before COVID, cross-border business was humming along. International travel was unrestricted, sourcing and shipping were unhindered, and companies could navigate international landscapes with ease. Then the pandemic struck, and many aspects of cross-border business were turned upside down.
In 2020, BC cross-border business was projected to grow the most in high-growth markets such as South America and Asia. The pandemic brought a wave of e-commerce customers in more developed countries as consumers began to purchase more items online. Let’s explore the differences between the BC and AC world that we will soon see.
- International travel was easy.
- Employees came to work at the office.
- Plans to learn more about and expand into fast-growth markets were in place and being implemented.
- Supplier and shipping issues were relatively straightforward and easy to solve.
- Consumer needs and marketing had been fleshed out according to the times.
- Consumers targeted for both brick and mortar and e-commerce.
- Cross-border business regulations were easily tracked and relatively involatile.
- Teams have internationally diversified.
- More employees are working from home (team reorganisation).
- Plans to expand into high-growth markets become more focused.
- Suppliers are near or on-shored.
- Logistics are restructured for shipping in smaller batches.
- Consumer needs have shifted to purchasing an increasing number of day-to-day supplies online.
- Consumers are more individually targeted for e-commerce.
- Possible cross-border regulation changes are increasingly factored into business models.
While BC and AC are two completely different worlds, BC businesses were headed in the direction of an AC world. The pandemic has brought these changes around faster than most companies had projected. The acceleration of change left many cross-border businesses scrambling to implement changes they did not see coming for years and has left many behind in the dust.
Are You Prepared for Change?
The pandemic has changed many of the rules to do business. Some are unspoken shifts in sentiment, while governments have mandated others. The most obvious change is the movement from in-person execution of business to virtual collaboration. As AC rolls around, in-person activities will occur again, but there will be a heightened focus on how and where those interactions occur.
Travel and Workspace
During the pandemic, people who needed to do in-person cross-border business could travel to some world regions, but this was not so in all cases. Many companies have hired employees in specific areas to conduct business in desired countries with little interruption to solve this problem and move forward.
As we advance, this model is likely to stick. Online communication and collaboration are becoming more manageable and less expensive, making a work-from-home business model a reasonable and scalable solution in the AC world.
Targeting New Markets
Hiring workers in locales of interest will allow companies to become better specialists in the markets they are targeting. BC, you may have had a local associate periodically travel to Sao Paulo to interact with customers and learn better ways to market to the region. With an employee native to the area, you instantly have non-stop access to data and information from the region in real-time. These changes carried forward in AC will raise revenues and reduce costs over time.
Logistics, Regulations, and Changes in Consumer Behaviour
BC, you may have had storefronts or stores that sold your products in batches. Now that the individual consumer is now shopping online, your logistics lean more to parcel post than bulk shipping. It is essential to note that this movement had started years BC. Shipping between countries in the EU was complicated due to the taxes imposed. BC the EU rolled out new rules for taxes on mini one stop shops (MOSS), and AC they plan to expand on these rules to make it easier and less costly for EU businesses to ship to other countries within the EU. The new rules will be implemented in the summer of 2021.
Yes, shipping smaller packages will be more costly for a time. After the summer, cross-border tax rates should come down for businesses involved in cross-border sales.
The pandemic also brought about supply chain problems due to producers and distribution centres being forced to shut down. Many small and midsized businesses that rely on imported supplies are looking to move these business aspects closer to home or closer to their target market.
In this case, it is also important to note that BC overseas production prices had been increasing, and many business owners and CEOs had started to look at these solutions previously. Many businesses that had been on the fence about moving suppliers to more convenient locations have been nudged to follow through with their plans by the pandemic.
What Should I be Doing to Function Better in an AC World?
It is easy to stick to a plan that has been working and then continue to try to stick to it when things change. Identify the most significant problems faced during the pandemic. Ask yourself if these are problems are only temporary, or will they continue to exist as the world progresses to the AC era. Next, take a good look at how you can diversify the use of your current assets, such as your location, team, equipment, connections, and knowledge. Talk to the best members of your team and come up with a plan that will allow you to flourish as we walk into the AC era together.
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