Our chat today with Vice President Alessandro Colnago, from Export USA, addresses business advice to sell in the US, how to effectively communicate with customers, and steps to improve your company’s shipping efficiency and organization.
Here at ShippyPro, we’re invested in providing the best up-to date knowledge about the e–commerce industry so your company can grow with less stress and more ease. Let’s have a look at the US market with Alessandro.
Q: Hi Alessandro, what is Export USA?
ALESSANDRO: Thank you ShippyPro for inviting me. Export USA is a consulting company specializing in internationalization strategies. In essence,
we help European and foreign companies or single entrepreneurs to do business in the United States.
And we try to help them throughout the whole process, from business planning, to opening up the corporation, setting up their sales and logistics network, and obtaining the visas to transfer themselves or their employees here.
Q: What does your list of export services include and then what are the specific sectors you’re specialized in?
ALESSANDRO: I would say that we don’t have specific sectors that we focus on. Mainly we work with the European customers, large and small. We are very active in the food and beverage industry, mechanical goods, cosmetics and beauty, wine and spirits, but also some niches that you wouldn’t think of. Services and software, real estate. It really depends on the specific client and where they’re coming from. In terms of services, what we realized years ago is that there was not an entity on the market that could help an entrepreneur to figure out the whole US system, both in terms of fiscal rules, legal rules, logistic rules. And so we wanted to target that niche and create a one stop shop offer where we really partner with our clients from the planning phases when they’re still in their home countries, to the verticalization and internationalization phases if they decide to open their branch on the US territory and develop their presence with their own people here.
Q: What aspects of Export USA differ from other consulting companies or what advantages does Export USA have?
ALESSANDRO: As you very well know, working with cross border transactions. There is a level of uncertainty and lack of knowledge on what happens outside of the border. What we are trying to do is to simplify and clarify for Europeans and foreign companies the way to do business in the United States. For example,
the first thing that we might do is to run a market research and positioning analysis for a product that has to fit in the US distribution and has to speak to a US customer. Secondly, we could do a business plan.
If somebody wants to open a distribution plan or even simply a shop, a restaurant, we would take care of the financial planning and in general the setup of the US company with all the fiscal evaluations and reasoning that brings, and also intellectual property and immigration. Those are two big other points because of course if you want to do business in the United States —especially in this COVID era — you should have immigration tools at your disposal. Visas, working permits, and so on. We also assist companies that bridge the gap from Europe to the US with some logistical services. It’s the industry you’re working into as well. You very well know that nowadays logistic is not what it used to be 10 years ago. 10 years ago shipping was considered a commodity, the market was very price driven. Right now it’s about service. It’s about making things transparent and trackable.
Q: What do you think are the top concerns for people shipping to the US right now, and how do you help with those concerns?
ALESSANDRO: The US market in general, in very broad terms, is moving from an incoterms that is Ex works to an incoterms that is DDP. What does this mean? It means that European exporters previously could price their products “Exports” and the importers in the United States would have to do the homework of figuring out the shipping cost, the duties, the insurance costs, and they would have to pay them. As the market is becoming more and more competitive, everybody wants to sell in the United States because the economy is so strong because the US consumers are so willing to spend. The importers and the distributers are becoming more spoiled, if you allow me. And they don’t want to deal with the headache of figuring out the duties, of doing business across the ocean. The exporters on their side change the incoterms, and the stuff selling more DDP. Which means Duty Delivery Paid. They are starting to pay duties, they are starting to pay logistic fees and insurance fees all the way to their destination of their clients. This presents a challenge but also an opportunity for the exporters because first of all, they need to do their homework, and they need to be able to price the products accordingly. They don’t have to go over market and they don’t have to be eating their own margins. And second of all,
they can also be closer to their clients because just by purely building up an export list with DDP with US dollar prices, you show a certain commitment to the market.
You tell your clients, “Hey look, I have studied the market. I know what it takes to do business here. These are my prices. You don’t need to worry about anything. I will deliver them to you as is.”
Q: What are you most concerned about for your customers? How do you try to make it the easiest possible method? And have you ever run into challenges with your company, how have you pushed through those?
ALESSANDRO: You know, sometimes, small and medium companies from Europe still think that they can come to the United States and sell before investing. And this is a very tainted logic. Here, you really need to invest before the sales are generated. What does it mean? It means being able to satisfy the expectations of your customers, in terms of communication, in terms of certification of the product, in terms of sales terms and price lists. In terms of promotion in general. So really sometimes it’s most about the mindset that creates the problem. Some people say, “Let me try to sell and see how it goes.” Here, it doesn’t work like that. Here you really need to have a strategy, commit to the strategy both in terms of human resources and financial resources, and then expect the sales to be generated and exponentially generated in the months to come.
Q: I like that you brought up communication because ShippyPro is also always striving to be very open and truthful to our customers
and help them as much as we can to make it the easiest process, the least stress. What project for you has been the most successful at Export USA and just filled with ease or it ended up being a really nice experience?
ALESSANDRO: We have many many success stories. My personal favorites are you know the ones from single entrepreneurs, young couples, young people that want to open businesses here such as restaurants, such boutiques. Because those really include the whole spectrum of activities that you can face when coming to a foreign country. So really from the business planning to the opening of the corporation, to the branding of your product or service, to the search border for a real estate opportunity, and the develop of all those operations. Those are really the most exciting projects on a small scale. As you said, communication is key. What I always tell my clients is, it’s not just about translating from one language to another, it’s really about understanding the dynamics, the “who’s” of the communication in business that make the difference between a success and a failure. Make the difference between staying within budget or losing money or losing time—even worse. It’s key for whatever service your clients or my clients are looking for when it comes to the United States to really understand this crucial point:
Transparency and communication are key. We should adapt to the way Americans think and do business.
Q: What is your advice for European companies that are selling online in the US market?
ALESSANDRO: It’s a very very interesting point. The online sale strategy is definitely something that we suggest to develop to almost any client we have, especially of course the ones that sell B2C that lead to consumers. Selling online from Europe to the United States may represent a first step in the online strategy for the company. It presents some limits of course, the logistic impact of shipping a product or package from Europe to the US is very high, so at some point you will need to balance the impact on your margins and the cost of actually having a small stock directly on the territory where it can fulfill the orders quicker or cheaper. So in my opinion, it really is a very good step to kind of dip your toes in the water and understand how the US consumers react to your product. The second step is always verticalization and having a small warehouse and stock here.
Q: And my last question is any advice to the online companies that are not currently selling in the United States but they have an interest to start selling here.
ALESSANDRO: Right, so first of all, do your research.
Understand who are your competitors here and how they communicate, how they price, how many days does it take them to deliver.
What is the return policy? Very very important in the United States. What are their terms and conditions? What are their disclaimers and warranties? All of these things are essentials if you want to be successful in selling online. So, do your research and then if you think your product has a positioning in the market, then go full steam ahead. Invest in social media marketing and you will be successful.
Q: Thank you so much for being here, Alessandro. We’re really grateful here at ShippyPro.
ALESSANDRO: Thank you so much for inviting me.
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