Mittwoch, 22. Juni 2011

Pura Vida Costa Rica - the place with the happiest people on earth and online usage still in development!

I already published two interviews from Costa Rica. Even the country is very small compared to all others I have visited - the economic growth offline and online will probably increase a lot during the next couple of years. Even our Federal President was surprised how far developed the country already is as he visited Costa Rica a couple of weeks ago.

One of my last interview partners during my 2 months travel in South- and Central America was Alberto Arguedas - Director of the German Chamber of Commerce (AHK) in Costa Rica. The main task of the Chamber is the same as in Argentina and Chile.
Mr. Arguedas provided a comprehensive overview about the online activities of the chamber itself as well as the general development in Costa Rica from different perspectives.

Own online services and activities

The AHK Costa Rica is the 2nd biggest Chamber in Central America and has around 110 members already. They establish themselves with online activities as a pioneer in whole Central America already. The team of Mr. Arguedas use the corporate AHK content management system Typo 3 and they are able to create their own structure and contents. In the meantime they offer a lot of information brochures and presentations which is appreciated by members and visitors. 

Dienstag, 7. Juni 2011

How to plan your offline-holiday with a online-focused travel agency in Costa Rica

Traveling is an exceptional way to educate yourself, get open-minded to different cultures, ways of living & thinking and seeing countrysides or animals you might never imagined they even exist. 

Due to my interview with Alex Jensen from SIXT I also got in contact with Mauricio Alfaro – one of the owners of a very well established inbound travel agency here in Costa Rica and one of the partners of  the SIXT franchise system as well. “Costa Rican Trails” (CRT)offers very interesting tour packages to enjoy some outstanding holidays. But they also have a very good reputation in using the online channel as their main way of customer communication. 

Donnerstag, 2. Juni 2011

Explore Costa Ricas countryside with the comfort of a rental car!

While traveling with public transport through the amazing landscape of Costa Rica and experiencing the fascinating and friendly culture of the so called Ticos, I realized there is so much to see and to explore – so the next time I probably will choose a rental car to get around the country. 
As you might remember I already had the possibility to visit the SIXT office in Argentina. So I was very pleased to get the possibility to speak with Alex Jensen – the General Manager of SIXT in Costa Rica about the local market here and the way he is already using the online channel as an important sales instrument.
Market view
Mr. Jensen is very experienced in the car rental business. After a bit of market research he took the possibility to focus on a new target group for the Costa Rican market– the European travelers. In cooperation with a well established tour operator, an additional partner and SIXT as a franchise company they opened the business in 2005. 

Montag, 16. Mai 2011

Chile is seen as market entry area for South America for many branches already

As Santiago is the biggest business city in Chile I got in contact with Antje Wandelt – Director of DEInternational at the German Chamber of commerce (AHK) there.
It was very interesting for me to compare Argentina and Chile with each other. Countries always appear quite similar if you look at them from a distant perspective but once you get more into the details – quite a lot of differences appear.
As any other chamber of commerce they act as a contact point for German companies mainly in terms of providing business information and contacts in Chile, branch specific information and possibilities to enter a new market and set up a business successfully.

Chamber of commerce - Website use and Internet spread

The chamber itself is working with two main websites, and The DEinternational website is set up as an own brand for standardized business center communication for different countries. The camchal website is more targeted towards providing current news around the countries, branches and regions as well as informing them about upcoming projects and results of past projects. As 3rd option the Chilenian chamber takes part in a B2B renewable energy platform where companies can provide their own services in this sector to be found by others – it has similarities to the yellow page entry in Germany.

Samstag, 14. Mai 2011

Internet as an important future channel for a charity project in Paraguay

Have you ever visited a very poor country and afterwards started to think about helping the people there somehow – not only with money –  far more with the kind of basic education and mechanics that is needed to set up their own life successfully?
I met a young women from Michigan who followed exactly these roads. I found her story very interesting and touching. If this wasn’t reason enough to ask her for an interview, Internet use is a necessity in her project, to communicate and seek out future sales channels.

During her university study 3 years ago she had the opportunity to take part in a global perspectives and service exchange program in Nicaragua. During her stay there she visited a garbage dump where thousands of people were living. Unable to do much at the time, she went home thinking about how after graduation she could serve people living in similar places in South America. She contacted a school in the capital of Paraguay, Asuncion that educated children living in the dump.  Tarah spent 4 months there teaching English to first graders, and through this she was able to meet the women in the children’s lives, mothers, aunts, and grandmothers. 

Sonntag, 8. Mai 2011

Did you ever think about how walnuts get into your bag in the supermarket?

I never before spent a second thinking about this topic while enjoying the lovely taste. While travelling through Chile I got the chance to spent a couple of days in a family house in the beautiful countryside area of Los Andes / San Felipe. It is situated in the middle of the Anden, a very sunny area which is famous for all kind of agricultural products - especially wine, walnuts and a lot of other vegetables and fruits. 
During my stay there I even visited and worked (!) in a walnut cracking fabric which was very interesting to see and to experience especially because you get a bit of an insight the life of the worker.
The fabric itself is a pure B2B company which has no direct contact to the final customer at all. It has around 100 employees who spend their day almost exclusively cracking and sorting walnuts. The walnuts are delivered in huge bags. As you can see in the pictures mainly women of all age levels are part of this team. The cracking and sorting itself is not that complicated, but in combination with assembly-line work, the noises of hammers and the pain in your hands it is a bit stressful after a while. (at least I got this impression).

Men carry the heavy walnut bags to where the women are working. The process of quality control is really strict. Everyone has to wear special clothes which cover almost the whole body. Finishing one big bag per day is set as a kind of general target for all workers.
The walnuts are sorted mainly by colour because this is more or less an indication of the quality of the taste and therefore also for the path they will follow for further processing. A special team is responsible to check the quality of all collections before it is prepared for delivering to companies who set up their orders.
I was unfortunately not allowed to take a lot of pictures so I can only provide a few impressions.
But of course I was not only interested in tasting the different flavours of walnuts - I also wanted to know if companies like this use the internet as a means of communication or as a selling channel at all. My initial assumption was right. So far internet does not play a role and the communication to their B2B customers is mainly via phone or personal contact. The walnuts are delivered in huge boxes to many countries around the globe with trucks, ships and even planes if necessary. Within a couple of days the produce arrives at the B2B customer for further processing. 

I got the chance to speak to the director of this company. Unfortunately my Spanish is "under development" and he and his team spoke no English at all. Therefore some information was inevitably lost in translation, This information would have contributed to the research I am doing here in South America.
Anyway - I doubt that we have similar factories in Germany so it was a good way to get an "insider view of the walnut bag" I buy in the supermarket on a regular basis :-)

Do you want to see a few more impressions? Then follow the link to the webalbum

Donnerstag, 21. April 2011

Think long term once you wanna start a business in Argentina!

The Argentinian-German Chamber of Commerce – I was very pleased about the fact that el Senior Federico Thielemann – Director Comercio Exterior y Sustentabilidad (foreign trade and sustainability) welcomed me in the 23rd level in the heart of Buenos Aires' Downtown area. After a short introduction about the background of our whole project he started to present a comprehensive overview about the Argentinian economy, the public affairs which companies need to handle if they are interested in setting up business in or with Argentina.

General Country Overview
Argentina is more or less a stable region without any bigger conflicts which might interfere business opportunities in any way. The whole so called MERCOSUR region (Mercado Común del Sur )is democratic. But Argentina is facing a rising criminality as well as any other country in South America – esp. in bigger cities like Buenos Aires.
The gaming rules for legal and business regulations are changing constantly and with short public announcement beforehand.

Mittwoch, 13. April 2011

SAP in Brazil: We make the world run better !

As fate will sometimes have it I met in Buenos Aires a very nice Business Development Manager of SAP Brazil. Boris Göbel is from Germany and was delegated to Sao Paolo since the beginning of the year.
Apart from all other interesting information he presented - I lost words as I heard what kind of message he got as he introduced himself in Brazil to many local employees. „Oh Germany... I would love to travel once over there, because you can have such a cheap holiday there“ I mean honestly – is this something you are expecting if someone who considers Germany as one of his next travel destinations? For sure not...

Company / Market definition:
Let's switch over to the business part of this story.
SAP entered the Brazilian market 15 years ago. Since then, SAP’s business in Brazil grew constantly, even making Brazil SAP’s third biggest country in terms of revenue in 2010. SAP sees enormous growth rated in many geographies, but the speed of growth in Brazil is unparalleled. 

Sonntag, 10. April 2011

Some more impressions .. this time without too many words around

As you can imagine South America is made for communication :-) Whereever you are people are talking, smiling, laughing, shouting, dancing and so it might not surprise that Facebook is a big topic here as well. I personally was a bit surprised as I saw that the city Buenos Aires mainly publishs their Facebook-Links instead of the normal city website. The facebook and twitter icon is integrated on many company advertisement just to make sure that people get connected to them. I really had to laugh as I saw the Facebook shirt with a short explanation around this whole topic. This was finally convincing me: Facebook matters here a lot!

Mittwoch, 6. April 2011

Sixt Car rental in Argentina follows a strategy of stable and healthy growth!

As you can imagine I was pretty excited to speak to el Senior Juan José Craviotto. He was my first interview partner so I prepared a lot of questions and overview information beforehand.
We were sitting in a lovely Argentinian cafè not far away from the Sixt office and I got the chance to get a comprehensive overview of running a business in Argentina as well as more specific information about the car rental industry. Argentina is a country which is facing ongoing changes. Within a short period the government, the currency and the dependencies between companies and citizens can change completely. Therefore companies take a big risk in setting their business up.

Company / Branch specific information:
Sixt started with a franchise system in Argentina in 2006. The argentinian family owned company is Transportes Furlong, which has been in business for the last 50 years, although the Furlong name is related to transportation business for almost 100 years in Argentina. 

In 2006 Sixt Argentina started with a fleet of 25 cars and have constantly expanded to the present 200 cars. The main strategy of Sixt in Argentina is:
  1. To rent their own cars locally;
  2. To sell Sixt rentals from Argentina at a reasonable price throughout the Sixt network.

Market definition:
Compared to some other companies within Argentina the car rental business from Sixt is not that big so far. AVIS as industry leader acts with a fleet of 1200. Local competitors are: Dietrich (aprox. 200 cars), Auto Corp (aprox. 250 cars), Utility (aprox. 600 cars). 40% of the current Sixt Argentina revenue is made by corporate business. 60% comes from mainly European travellers and local people.

Website usage:
The biggest booking channel for both segments is still mainly by phone call / email / 'walk in' with 67% of all reservations. 26% of all bookings come via internet mainly by European travellers. But the number of reservations via the internet is constantly growing particularly during the last couple of months. Half of the customers are paying with credit cards already.

Internet spread / future steps:
Sixt Argentina collected during the last 1 1/2 years a lot of experience in search engine marketing. With the help of a local agency they reached a good level in terms of impressions and click prices.E-commerce is focused within the ads. The conversion rate is still a key task for improvement. Therefore in the future there will be far more stronger collaboration with the Sixt headquarters and their service providers.
Search engine optimization, an Argentinian operated Facebook fan page, cooperation with hotels and travel agencies or any other customer relationship oriented online activities are still not a big issue for Juan. Offline marketing activities are mainly related to regular press releases and ads in magazines. As the fleet has to grow constantly in a difficult surrounding and resources are limited they need to focus on the main tasks to continue running the business in a profitable way.

As with the majority of companies in today's world, online marketing is part of the overall company strategy here in Argentina, however at present it is not run with maximum power behind due to other important business tasks.

I'll keep my fingers crossed that Juan & his team are succeeding on the taken path.

@Juan: Quisiera agradecerle por la entrevista interesante!

Montag, 4. April 2011

How are you setting up an interview guideline in a smart way?

As the blog itself gets more and more international attention as well it might be a good idea to switch to English. Therefore from now on I will mainly post in English to give also the companies I am talking to the chance to read and understand what I am publishing about their interviews and the online market research in general I am trying to set up here in South America.
I already gave notice about the upcoming Sixt Interview which took place last Friday finally.The results of this very interesting and informative meeting will be published shortly here on this side. Be curious about!

As described last week already the main targets are to find out how the internet inflcuences
  • the company itself in a way of communicating, positioning and selling their products/services via the online channel
  • the customers expectation to use/ get these products/services via the online channel 
  • on the other hand also the dialog between customers and company regarding satisfaction, claims, contact points and so on.
No matter what size, branch or products a company offers the interview guidelines will all be set up in a similar pattern to even offer the possibility to compare them with eachother somehow.
I am going to focus on the following pattern. If you have any more questions or any good advices around I am happy to get some feedback from you!
  • Company- / branch specific background (organisational structure, company size, overall strategy etc.)
  • Online Market-definition (target groups, competitors, differentiation)
  • Website conception itself (overall target - brand / e-commerce, e-commerce offer and services around, user experience, website structure etc.)
  • Internet-Spread (Search engine marketing, Search-engine-optimization, social networks, online cooperations, additional services)
  • Business development / Future expectations
In each section I prepared a couple of specific questions regarding the individual category topics.
What I might plan to do additoinally to all these interviews is to post some kind of ads which are crossing my way by coincidence. This can be just "normal" offline posters which have an interesting content or local way of communicating something which at least puts a smile on your face at the end. I am collecting pictures of these situation and will integrate them approximately within this blog once a week.

Last but not least I like to give you also a bit of a perspective what else is waiting in the queue to get published next to the Sixt interview. By coincidence I got in contact with a business development manager who is working for SAP in Brazil. Even I am not travelling to Brazil the information around the whole development there was more than faszinating and will be summarized as well during the next couple of days...

For now I can only say.. next update is coming soon.

Mittwoch, 30. März 2011

Angekommen in einer inspirierenden Metropole

Gestern war es dann endlich soweit - ich bin in Buenos Aires gelandet und habe damit auch einen Startpunkt für unser Südamerika Projekt gesetzt. Vom ersten Eindruck her erscheint B.A. als eine pulsierende Metropole, die durch ihre Lebendigkeit inspiriert und man auch als stiller Beobachter einfach nur staunend durch die Strassen wandert. Die Argentinier sind vom ersten Eindruck her sehr offenherzig und hilfsbereit und ich freue mich hier einige Tage zu verbringen und alles auf mich wirken zu lassen.

Bevor es dann auch inhaltlich bald losgeht, möchte ich kurz einen Überblick geben, wie ich mir das ganze in den nächsten Wochen vorstelle. Ich bin gerade dabei Interviewleitfäden vorzubereiten, die verschiedene Aspekte des Online Marktes abdecken werden. Hierzu kann ich in Kürze bei Interesse detaillierte Infos anbieten.
Ich versuche hier vor Ort mit Firmen aus verschiedenen Branchen in Kontakt zu kommen und Interviewinteressenten zu finden. Die Interviews selbst werden wahrscheinlich so 1-1/2 h dauern. Für alle Marktforscher unter Ihnen:-) ist mir wichtig zu sagen, dass diese Ergebnisse natürlich nur subjektive Eindrücke widerspiegeln - sowohl von meiner Perspektive als auch von der Erfahrung des jeweiligen Interviewpartners. Die Ergebnisse erheben nicht den Anspruch auf wissenschaftliche Vollständigkeit, obwohl ich natürlich versuche soviele Aspekte wie möglich abzudecken!

Aber jetzt gleich zum weiteren Vorgehen: Ein erster Interviewpartner steht schon in den Startlöchern. Dieser ist ein Erfolg in doppelter Hinsicht, weil er nämlich über unser MC-Club Netzwerk überhaupt zustande gekommen ist. Dank Christian Rehbein - Director International Business Development bei der Sixt Leasing AG in München, werde ich am Freitag nachmittag mit seinem Kollegen hier in Buenos Aires sprechen. Ich freue mich sehr auf dieses Gespräch und bin gespannt, was uns am Ende für neue Erkenntnisse zur Verfügung stehen.

Wollten Sie schon immer mal wissen, was Sixt alles über den Online Kanal tut, dass Sie als Kunde ganz problemlos Ihr Auto am Urlaubsort oder beim Businestrip in Empfang nehmen können? Dann posten Sie mir auf Facebook Ihre Fragen oder Gedanken...

Sonntag, 20. März 2011

Bald gehts los...

Am 28.März startet endlich das neue Projekt der Marketing Junioren - "Postings aus Südamerika"
Wir haben es uns zum Ziel gesetzt, die Marketing Community über den südamerikanischen Online Markt zu informieren und auf offene Fragen hoffentlich bald die passenden Antworten zu finden.

Ich würde mich freuen, wenn ein reger Austausch auf Facebook zwischen allen Mitlesenden und Interessierten stattfindet. Startpunkt ist Buenos Aires und am Ende werde ich in Costa Rica ankommen.  Chile und Bolivien werden auf meiner Wegstrecke liegen. Die genaue Route ergibt sich "unterwegs".

Geben Sie mir Input, was Sie interessiert oder zu welchen Firmen oder Organisationen Sie möglicherweise Kontaktmöglichkeiten herstellen können. Ich werde mein Bestes tun, um Ihnen allen die Informationen zu liefern, die für Sie relevant sind.