2020 has been a year of utter calamity, with the COVID-19 pandemic causing utter havoc throughout all our lives. The business world has understandably struggled to adapt: in fact, many companies couldn’t cope and had to shutter their operations (possibly permanently). Today, as we approach the new year, things are in an odd position.
On one hand, the virus is still around, and it’s hard to envision living going back to normal in the near future. On the other hand, there have been encouraging signs things are going to get better soon — namely some promising vaccine trials. Heading into 2021, businesses have some tough decisions to make about how they’re going to proceed.
Will they focus on efficiency to keep their costs down? Pursue their wildest ambitions with reckless abandon? There’s one thing I can say with confidence, at least: 2021 is going to be a huge year for international business. Here’s why:
Economic woes are making it vital to diversify
Due to COVID-19, countries throughout the world have gone into recession, and many people have had great difficulty balancing their finances. As a result, far fewer business owners are interested in making big investments — and customers stuck at home are committing their buying power to a handful of huge retailers because they’re known to be reliable.
This means that small businesses have far fewer opportunities to bring in revenue: and when that happens, the logical solution is to cast a wider net. European companies having issues winning clients and customers need to eye the US market. The sheer scale of it is immense, accounting for almost a quarter of the global economy.
At the same time, others should be looking at China, an economy that’s also huge (surpassing $14 trillion in 2019 according to weforum.org) but is relatively untapped for western companies. With companies having so many rivals in their local markets, those willing to break out of their comfort zones and expand into other countries will be able to reap the rewards.
Third-party companies will step in otherwise
What happens when a particular product or service isn’t available internationally? Prospective customers don’t just give up: they look for alternative routes, and usually find them. Let’s say that a US-based company offers an in-demand product but only on a national level — another seller can buy stock, raise the price, and profit immensely from taking international orders.
We can also look at the swathe of national lotteries for examples. Consider a site like playhugelottos.com: the entire idea is allowing people in certain countries to play lotteries from other countries, taking a cut of the profit in the process. If those national lotteries would just open up to international customers, they’d be able to make that profit. Similarly, if US-based companies won’t service European customers, other companies will benefit.
Factor in VPNs for SaaS businesses and it’s clear that simply denying international demand isn’t a good idea. Acknowledging this, more and more businesses will focus on expanding their services to accommodate (and profit from) demand wherever it may be.
Remote working is encouraging global teams
The other key reason why 2021 will see businesses expand internationally is that the new remote working standard makes it so much easier to assemble global workforces. It was obviously possible to have people work remotely before this pandemic started, but there was a stigma attached to it that made it something most companies were unwilling to embrace.
They decided that allowing people to work remotely would sabotage productivity and allow employees to get away with doing whatever they wanted — but now they have first-hand experience of remote operation and know that it doesn’t really damage productivity. In many cases, it actually makes it better by allowing employees to feel more comfortable.
With businesses now understanding that they can work remotely if they want to, they can be much more open to hiring people from other countries (or allowing their existing employees to move elsewhere on permanent placements). By the end of 2021, we can expect to see a greatly-expanded range of companies that have become fundamentally international.