Live From Direct Media Co-op: Seeking Spenders? Look Overseas

May 01, 2008 7:32 PM  By

White Plains, NY–”The U.S. Consumer is broke, and it’s going to take some time for them to start spending again,” said Kevin Aronin during his keynote Wednesday at Direct Media’s Client Conference and Co-op. “In times like this, people are going to eat, heat their homes, and drive before they buy stuff,” added Aronin, who is chairman/CEO of PlasmaNet.

So what should the merchants trying to sell “stuff” to consumers be doing? Since the problems facing U.S. consumers–the weakened dollar, soaring oil prices, slumping housing prices, and credit woes–have not been felt quite as much overseas, Aronin suggest courting international customers.

In fact, the weakened dollar is making the U.S. a popular shopping attraction, Aronin said, noting that New York stores are now crowded with travelers from Europe, Asia, and South American countries. And it’s not just because of the favorable exchange rate.

For one, some products such as perfumes are never discounted in Europe. Also, electronics like laptop computes and iPods, though manufactured in China, cost about twice as much in places like Shanghai. And U.S. brands like Wrangler jeans found in the boys departments of discount stores like Wal-Mart can run upwards of $140 U.S. a pair in Ireland.

But can a U.S.-based company succeed in international markets? Absolutely, says Aronin, whose company’s Freelotto.com Website is now during business in 161 countries, including Vatican City. And Aronin says his company didn’t start doing business overseas until 2006.

So what should U.S. merchants do to help build business overseas?

–Build foreign-language Websites for other countries. Aronin says Freelotto.com was translated in four different languages, and based on that success, expanded to 17. “It’s like speaking a few phrases in French when dining in Paris. You’re going to get more respect,” he said.

–Learn the law of the land. In some countries, you cannot ship items like computers, cell phones, and software. You have to understand the import laws, Aronin stressed.

–See which countries have developing credit and credit card issues. In China, credit card issues were up 25% in 2007. But in India, where Aronin will not do business, credit card interest rates start at 32%, and late fees can start at $150.

–Find out what countries have higher minimum wages, and therefore more disposable income. For instance, in Ireland, the $17 (U.S.) minimum wage means that workers likely have more to spend—particularly if they’re shopping from U.S. merchants.