Our eastern neighbor Austria is an interesting export market for Swiss SMEs. The geographical and cultural proximity between Switzerland and Austria makes it easier for newcomers in particular to enter the market. Although the country cannot be compared with Germany in terms of size and opportunities, there are a number of points that nevertheless speak in favor of Austria:
- High purchasing power: Austrians are willing to spend money on Swiss products because they appreciate the quality and image of Switzerland.
- Similarities with Switzerland: The structural, economic and industrial similarity between the two countries make internationalization easier.
- Manageability: It is easier to take the first steps in a smaller country, especially for an initial export project.
- Pilot market: Entering the Austrian market is a good strategic starting position to subsequently develop further countries in the EU.
- Test market: Austria is an excellent place to test new products.
- Research & Development (R&D): Like Switzerland, Austria’s economy focuses strongly on R&D. Innovative ideas are welcomed and further developed.
- Funding programs: Austria offers numerous funding programs that can be utilized as soon as a company is founded.
Particularly promising business areas and regions
The MEM industry, the automotive sector - Austria is a strong component supplier -, the food sector, food processing, infrastructure, research & development, life science and fintech offer particularly interesting business areas for Swiss companies. Telemedical services and health tech are also very popular due to the coronavirus pandemic. Popular regions include Vorarlberg, Tyrol, Vienna and Styria. In the latter, clusters have formed especially in the life sciences sector. According to Roland Berger's Smart City Strategy Index, Vienna is considered the world's most progressive city for the second time.
Analyze the market and clarify regulatory issues
Before entering the Austrian market, it is worthwhile conducting a market analysis and examining customer segments, pricing, distribution channels, competitors, interesting locations or clusters as well as the HR situation.
Many companies underestimate the fact that Austria, despite having the same language and a similar culture, is a different country and therefore an export market. This inevitably involves dealing with regulatory issues and export administration. In some areas Austria is more strongly regulated and bureaucratic than Switzerland. Furthermore, there are country-specific peculiarities despite current EU regulations. For example, the trade regulations act is something typically Austrian. An important point of contact for Swiss SMEs when it comes to regulatory issues is the S-GE branch office in Vienna, the Swiss Business Hub Austria. As an official local representation, located in the Swiss Embassy in Vienna, the Swiss Business Hub actively supports Swiss companies with their international business.
Take cultural particularities into account
Personal relationships and networks are far more important in Austria than in Switzerland. Where the Swiss are rather sober and impersonal, the Austrians would rather get to know each other better and make sure that the business relationship is actively cultivated. After a promising initial contact, it is not enough to limit oneself to business matters or to communicate only by e-mail. Titles are another cultural peculiarity in Austria. Under no circumstances should they be omitted, as they are considered a sign of respect.