Tailor-made for SMEs: Export Digital

Text: Alberto Silini

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock
Don’t be fooled by the good export figures posted by the pharmaceutical industry. Not all Swiss exporters are out of the woods in the aftermath of last year’s Swiss franc shock.

Alberto Silini, Head of Consultancy Export at S-GE. Photo: Benjamin Hadad
Alberto Silini, Head of Consultancy Export at S-GE. Photo: Benjamin Hadad
Long-term challenges for the pharmaceutical industry are just now beginning to emerge. The way forward is to tap into new markets beyond the eurozone, whether in the US, China, the Gulf States or Iran. Diversifying is a way to offset currency losses in Europe and new markets can help ensure long-term growth.
There is no such thing as too much internationalisation. The best crisis management is greater international interconnection. And digitization is the catalyst for this. Never before have SMEs had so many opportunities to conduct international business as easily as they do today thanks to digitization.
Research, marketing, and sales can mostly be accomplished at your desk, which is particularly valuable when trying to access distant markets. Digital tools make possible business models that seemed unattainable for SMEs years ago and require fewer resources – like cross-border e-commerce, to name just one. Digitization of industry further expands the opportunity for international collaborations.

New kind of creativity is needed
The flip side of flexibility and efficiency: a new kind of creativity is needed. In all probability, margins will be created differently from today. Business models are being put to the test mercilessly. Those who do not ride the wave of digitization will be left behind.
Agile, innovative and steeled by the strong franc, Swiss companies are well equipped. But they must now start to focus on enhancing their business models – digital tools are not an end in themselves. At the same time, entering a new market is always a complicated business and needs careful preparation. As has always been the case, personal contact with customers is indispensable. In other words, the aim is to do an even better job of getting to know their needs and, where it makes sense, to present digital solutions to problems.

Greater use of digital tools
Where is the best place to start? Schedule training for qualified employees, or designate an individual responsible for pushing ahead with digitization in the company! Make greater use of digital tools and services that already exist in order to secure a future for your export activities.
In the longer term, the aim is to get to know customers better, both domestically and abroad, to investigate new technologies and business models that transcend industry sectors, and to risk the occasional experiment. Finally, SMEs must also reconsider relationships with their international business partners in order to create a basis for an increased exchange of data and expertise. Competitors may in future become partners.
We at Switzerland Global Enterprise, the official export promoter, will be there to lend a hand to SMEs when they are looking to digitize their international business. Together with Google, we have for example launched the Export Digital platform, which provides help in researching markets online and offers an array of instructional videos about digital exporting – so that your company can take the first step on the path to the digital transformation of your business.

Publicerad: 03 November, 2016