How Digitization Is Changing Exports: Five Tips for SMEs

Digitization and Industry 4.0 are blurring the boundaries in international business. And they are playing right into the hands of our exporters. Five tips on how each SME can start the transformation by the CEO of Switzerland Global Enterprise, Daniel Küng.
Value chains will organize themselves in a network-like manner, just like switching circuits
Module with circuits

Digitization and internationalization are giving the economy a massive boost. The place where something is developed and produced is becoming less important. Data and automated processes lubricate the gears of cooperation across boundaries and borders.

The prospects for local SMEs are revolutionary, because digitization provides them with more possibilities to act internationally than ever before. As a result of new cooperation channels, they can make use of value creation networks all over the world, provide their own specific expertise and exploit their niche competencies to the full. Digitization plays right into the hands of the country of “Hidden Champions”.

The challenges: Competitors become partners, and new competitors appear from sectors that operated in a completely distinct manner in the past. Business models are mercilessly put to the test. Those who do not ride the wave of digitization will be left behind.

With their agility and innovativeness, and steeled by the strong franc, Swiss companies are well equipped. But they now have to start deliberately enhancing their business models – digital tools are not an end in themselves in this regard. They need to get to know their customer requirements even better and offer them creative and, where meaningful, digital solutions to their problems. It is very easy to get started:

  • 1) A suitable colleague can be nominated as “digital officer” in each SME: an employee with good digital skills, who is willing to take on this subject, visit training courses, and create a roadmap for possible projects in the company.

  • 2) Many tools already exist that can help with the digitization of business and exports – which means there is usually no need to re-invent the wheel. For example: the Market Finder offered by Google and S-GE on our common platform Export Digital. This can be used to test the sales potential of one’s own products in the target market.

  • 3) How can SMEs get to know their own customers even better? By systematically evaluating the data they already have, by finding new data sources and new cooperation partners, in order to find out even more.

  • 4) If it is possible that competitors will come from completely different sectors in future, it is definitely worthwhile thinking outside of the box: How do other sectors resolve their problems? We recommend more networking, more exchange, and also more copying and experimenting.

  • 5) In international business, the relationships to customers and partners in the target country play a very important role. These relationships need to keep up with a continuously changing world. Would you be willing to share your customer data with your distribution partners? “Test therefore, who join forever” also applies here. The right cooperation partners will make the difference in future, if you want to get to know your customers even better.

    S-GE is there to help SMEs who trying to enter new markets. Thanks to our international network, we can help you when it comes to identifying the right partners in your target markets. We can provide the right experts for SMEs, who want to intensify their focus on digital marketing in China, the USA or South America, or who require different expertise.

    In 2015, more than 5,400 companies made use of our services. We are therefore still fully aware of the massive problems they face: Reserves are slowly being used up, and margin pressures are immense. And we understand that accessing new markets always involves significant projects, which require an enormous amount of resources. However, we still appeal to our SMEs: there is no “too much” here, only “too little business abroad”. Internationalization is your viable way out of the crisis, and it is our mission to accompany you and show you how digitization can help together with our partners.

    This text appeared for the first time in a special edition of the Handelszeitung on November 10, 2016.


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