Expanding overseas needs a diverse leadership team

Many of Asia’s corporations are expanding their brands overseas. Cross-border promotion of a brand is relatively new for China and increasingly diverse for Japan. Japanese car and technology brands such as Toyota, Sony and Honda are already global household names. In China it is Alibaba and Lenovo that spring to mind.

Any company that is looking to expand internationally must ask itself whether the corporate culture be applied elsewhere? And can it be inclusive?

The number one issue is the management itself. Whether your aspiration is expanding your brand into a new country or acquiring overseas businesses and exporting your expertise, you are ultimately likely to export your management structure, style and brand values.

There is no one-size fits all management or business plan. The successful multinational usually has satellite offices that have different practices based on local laws and customs. However there  needs to be a basic corporate ethos and standards of conduct. The successful multinationals tend to have multicultural leadership that promotes equal opportunity in leadership.

That may sound too simplistic and obvious. However, often companies expanding overseas like to have senior leadership that is largely from their home nation, they do not change the acquiring company’s management and therefore do not add value beyond cash infusion. A leadership team that all looks and sounds the same puts a company at a disadvantage by shutting the door on diverse outlooks.

As companies do their due diligence on expansion, not only do they need to consider if it is strategically a fit and the finances are right, they also need to question if they have the right management team and integration plan. Establishing world-class management processes is the first step, not the last one.

Companies should ensure they have leadership programmes in place where they share the mission and strategic intent of the company. What the leadership programme looks like will vary from company to company, but having one is an absolute must, both for the home and host teams. Establishing best practice enables knowledge transfer and promotes a cohesive corporate ethos. Both the home team and the host team will need help to adapt to new ways of communication and doing business. It’s also crucial for recruitment: the best and brightest are not going to work for a company where they do not see opportunities for promotion. Leadership programmes highlight a path.

The second critical component companies need to have is genuine succession planning. Managers at both at home and overseas will need to develop new skills. Your people will need training in leadership, cultural sensitivity and the opportunity to gain experience in different parts of the business. Leadership programmes and succession planning have long been basic building blocks of world-class management

The bottom line is that as Asian companies look to expand their businesses into overseas markets they need to make sure their management teams are up for the task. Their aim should be to build a diverse leadership group that embraces best global practices.


Chinese bloggers vs Western bloggers

When it comes to generating sales, Chinese bloggers beat the Western bloggers by a landslide. Bloggers in China have social and technological advantages for converting fans that bloggers in the West can only dream of.

Chinese fans are OK with being sold stuff on social platforms

In the West, bloggers should be discreet about their sales pitch or completely forthright. There is no middle ground. It’s like bringing up money among friends — it happens inevitably, but all parties understand they are wading into awkward territory.

In China, social media and e-commerce are completely integrated into each other. In other words, social platforms have e-commerce functions, and e-commerce platforms have social functions. This makes the line between entertainment and commerce blurry.

A recent article from Boston Consulting Group stated: “In China, shopping is about more than just the transaction. It is about entertainment, discovery, and social engagement with friends, celebrities, and internet influencers.”

A study by Accenture found that up to 70% of Chinese Gen Z consumers — those born after 1995 — prefer buying products directly via social media than other channels. The global average is 44%.  Simply put, bloggers are at the heart of the Chinese shopping experience.

People want social media platforms to entertain them. Their favourite bloggers help them discover new products through via content. Consumers are entertained and purchase products at the same time and it’s all possible because Chinese social media platforms have e-commerce capabilities joined with them. Chinese consumers value word of mouth recommendations above all else.   As long as the content is good and the bloggers trusted they do not feel they are being used

E-commerce platforms make full use of social media and bloggers

Imagine if Amazon had its own version of Periscope built-in where people live-streamed themselves using products while fans browsed or Expedia had a travel-oriented version of Snapchat connected to its site.  Now you can see how shopping and sharing work in tandem on the Chinese net.  Most e-commerce platforms have social functions and even their own bloggers. For example, Taobao and JD.com have integrated live streaming and articles.

Western social platforms make sales inconvenient and clunky. Look at Instagram, which does not even allow URLs in a post.   Chinese bloggers have the tools to convert followers into customers easily. Their platforms gave them these.

Here’s an example: Chinese social media apps allow product links in post copy and additionally allow consumers to open the links, view the products, put them in their shopping carts and pay for them while still seeing the original post. Meipai’s video sharing app has been unrolling a feature recently for content creators to put product link tags directly in their videos. Viewers can click on an overlayed tag and buy the product while watching the video.

Live streaming platforms such as Yizhibo allow streamers to create a shopping cart of items which viewers can access and purchase by clicking an icon on the screen during the live stream.  For example, if a streamer is giving a makeup tutorial and viewers ask what products she is using, she can direct them to her cart.

“Check out my cart right here in the top right corner to learn more about the products I’m using,” makes much more likely to convert to sales than “Please find my list of products on another site.”  The first generates quick purchases, the second, bounces.

Chinese bloggers can create custom products for their followers

In China, you will find a growing trend of bloggers creating their own products and brands. With access to fast-react manufacturers who can offer small volumes and frequent changes to production lines, Chinese bloggers can create products their followers ask for. They can sell it themselves without relying on big brands.

Zhang Dayi is one such Chinese blogger. She is an expert at using online engagement to gauge her followers’ preferences. Her team avoids inventory overstocking by utilizing big data analytics to measure consumer sentiment towards newly released products. Their methods have been wildly successful. In 2016, Zhang’s store reportedly pulled in US$46m in revenue.

Chinese bloggers have an advantage. With the vast amount of resources available to them, those who understand their audience and create excellent content have the ability to not only create awareness for a brand but generate actual sales results.