How to prepare your product for exports?

If you are one of those people who has a vision for your products to not just stay within the borders of South Africa, but to include overseas markets, we have prepared a few guidelines for you to consider before you rush into unknown territory without the necessary preparation.  Due diligence is key in achieving success in other parts of the world. Here are 3 questions to consider for achieving success in an international market:

Should you adapt your product to meet government regulations, country conditions or preferences?

Government regulations, geographical and climatic conditions, buyer preferences or a specific standard of living are all factors to take into consideration when entering a new market. Your commitment to a foreign country, as well as whether you have a short- or long-term marketing strategy for these products, will greatly determine the costs you will be willing to incur.

Most exporters underestimate the influence that religious customs or cultural behaviour has on buyers’ behaviour – which will ultimately affect sales.  People differ in the way they choose to conduct their lives, which makes it important to understand the potential cultural barriers and opportunities within a specific country.

Should you modify your product labelling and packaging?

The sensory impression made by a product, such as taste or visual effect, may also be a critical factor. A customer’s response may differ from country to country, depending on the way they interpret and prefer the wording and design of products. Even the type of product packaging can influence a buyer’s behaviour.  Here are a few questions to ask to determine whether you should change your current packaging, design and wording:

  • Can labels and instructions be produced in official or customary languages if required by law?
  • Does information on product content and country of origin have to be provided?
  • Are weights and measures stated in the local unit?
  • Must each item be labelled individually? What is the language of the labelling? There may be special labelling requirements for foods, pharmaceuticals, and other products.
  • Are local tastes and knowledge considered? A cereal box with the picture of a South African athlete on it may not be as attractive to overseas consumers as the picture of a local sports hero.

Where should products be assembled and should you give a warranty?

There are pros and cons of assembling products overseas.  If you dissemble the products for shipment and reassemble it abroad, it can save you shipping costs, because volume is often the determining factor when calculating freight charges. However, this should outweigh the cost and time spent on assembling products abroad. Shipping dissembled goods also facilitates movement on narrow roads or through narrow doorways and elevators.

Also, consider the terms of a warranty on the product and be very specific about the warranty’s coverage. The buyer will expect a specific level of performance and a guarantee. Levels of expectation and rights for a warranty vary by country, depending on the country’s level of development, its competitive practices and the local standards of production quality.

To summarise: Language and cultural factors have played an important role in the success or failure of many exporting efforts, therefore it is important to relook at your product and the information on the label in the context of the country you are exporting to. Assess whether it will be cheaper to assemble products in South Africa or abroad and decide on a warranty that will be a good fit for the country of export.

Are the colours used on labels and packages offensive or attractive to the foreign buyer? For example, in some countries certain colours are associated with death.

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