03 Apr 2018
Many companies use EMEA as an administrative region. It stands for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. It is a business region that spans three continents, dozens of countries, and includes several different economic systems, many currencies, and as much cultural diversity as you could ask for.
EMEA is anything but homogenous.
According to Investopedia: “EMEA is a creature of corporate boardrooms, not an intuitive designation with its roots in history, culture, or politics.”
Getting your product to market in the EMEA, in other words, is not a single action, and there are many factors to take into account in creating your strategy by region or by country. Getting assistance on the ground in the EMEA would be a good first move.
The countries included in EMEA are not generally agreed upon. This list, published by IstiZada from Amman Jordan, covers a wide area -
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Isle Of Man
Sao Tome & Principe
United Arab Emirates
It does not include Russia as some lists do. Some lists also include overseas territories such as the French DOM-TOM or certain Caribbean islands. Many lists also include French Guyana, which is in South America.
Given this wide disparity, it would seem impossible to use this unwieldy region for a product launch. However, what is important to note is that the region spans only four time zones and is relatively centralized. This makes EMEA a good business region for online businesses.
Communications across the time zones is easier even than the US market (which has nine official time zones including Alaska, Hawaii, Samoa, and Guam). If your business has a customer service element to it, the flight times across the region are not terribly long, making it possible to administer the region from one or two central hubs.
Online businesses, and here we are talking about retailers who must deliver a product, can look at the EMEA as a logistical region. Each internal market from the long list above, however, will need a go-to-market strategy with its own language, messages, and particular personality.
Some of the big boys have already gone in on this premise. Amazon, which delivers to the region, has hubs in Europe, has recently purchased the Dubai-based Souq.com to facilitate Middle Eastern customers experience, and already offers expedited shipping in Africa to South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, and Nigeria and delivers to many other countries as well.
Zalando, the fashion and accessories retailer, Bol.com, the Dutch retailer of books, toys, and electronics, Polish retailer Allegro.pl, and French Cdiscount, a subsidiary of the giant Casino group, are all focusing attention on Europe.
With new distribution hubs opening in both Eastern and Western Europe, these online heavy-hitters are poised to create effective logistical networks that could be expanded across the EMEA business region.
If you think your product is ready for the EMEA, there are a few key questions you can ask yourself to break down this behemoth into digestible bites.
1. Can I divide the region by language?
The biggest languages used in the region are English, French, and Arabic. If you design your go-to-market strategies according to language, these three will serve you well. Bear in mind, however, that other cultural difference will exist among countries with the same main language.
2. Is my target audience similar in many countries?
In IT, this could easily be the case. English is, in most places, lingua franca anyway. In this case, you may be able to design a go-to-market strategy that is 80% content which is common to many countries, with 20% of customized content for each country.
3. Are there any countries where my product is restricted?
Every business is affected by the local legislation. Amazon.co.uk, for example, cannot deliver electronic goods outside the EU, but books and other items can go anywhere. Before you launch a new product for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, make sure it has no sugar or eggs in it as those are the only restricted legal commodities in that country.
4. Can I deliver my products?
Most European countries have sophisticated infrastructure, making deliveries easy for online retailers. But in many countries in Africa and in some smaller towns in the Middle East, delivery may be a problem. In one dramatic example, when the Coca-Cola Company wanted to open the Russian market, they found that they also had to invest in building roads and infrastructure to get the Coke to the consumer.
5. Do I need a local partner?
In some countries, even where it is not a legal condition, it sometimes pays to have a local partner to handle local logistics, transactions, and government relations. If your product falls into a category where you need government approvals (firearms, pharmaceuticals, or foodstuffs), you may want to think twice about a wider EMEA strategy and instead look at individual high yield countries.
In trying to answer these questions, you will need to investigate each country or group of countries (like EFTA, that includes Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein).
The point of all this work is to see how you are going to launch your product in the EMEA business region, no matter how many of the 120 countries are included. The huge area of the EMEA breaks down into as many markets as you choose, and each one will need its go-to-market strategy and planning.
It is a foregone conclusion that what works in France may not work in Germany or Spain. And what sells gangbusters in Morocco may go bust in Abu Dhabi. The importance of reducing your thinking to a very local reality in going to market cannot be emphasized enough.
The phrase “think global, act local” makes sense especially here because the global synergies – in time, communications, languages, and geography – do not translate into values for a brand or for a new product of any kind.
When you are attempting to launch in several countries at once, a go-to-market professional will advise you to find the lowest common denominator among the countries. In this way, maybe 70% of the effort or the content can be used for every country while the remaining 30% should be localized. This will save you a great deal of time and money. Moreover, if you see that each country you have chosen is so different that there are no overlapping areas, maybe it is time to rethink the country strategy.
Another consideration, aside from all the above, is about the demographics of your chosen markets. Are they composed of many religions or attitudes toward religion? Is there a proportionate middle class or is there a sharp discrepancy. Look at the details of your market segregation and see where the large lines fall. You may have a product that works perfectly across 120 countries in the same way!
As you can easily see, there are a lot of considerations to launching a product in the EMEA. This should not stop you from doing it however! All this information should serve to show you how getting a expert advice, from a go-to-market company that knows and understands the many parameters, variables, and vicissitudes of the region.
The Go-To-Market Company, for example, has worked and operated successfully in the EMEA for years. Launching a new product and opening a new market absolutely require local knowledge, networking ability, and familiarity with bureaucracy. There is no need for you to reinvent the wheel for yourself when you may lean on professionals who already know the terrain and how to enter.