How to Introduce a German Product to the United States

This year during his Cultural Vistas Fellowship, Jonathon VanBrunt spent the summer interning for Orderbird: a startup in Germany that has developed a point-of-sale system (POS) for the restaurant industry. As part of his internship he researched the cultural and entrepreneurial differences between the U.S. and German markets, in the event the company expanded to the United States. The results might surprise you.

Since I began working for Orderbird, (aka “the bird”), I have been conducting research on hypothetical future projects and productions in the U.S. market. Because everyone who works at Orderbird is German, they do not know much about the U.S. market or how to sell to Americans.

During my internship, I presented my findings to the department I work in. It was a great opportunity to not only show them what I had been working on the past few weeks, but also to introduce them to the U.S. business market and to get their feedback. This blog post will be an overview of what I researched and what I presented to the product management department.

SECTION 1: COMPETITORS AND HARD FACTS

To my surprise, there are actually many competitors within the U.S. market that offer point-of-sale (POS) systems for restaurants. Many of these include businesses such as Square, Revel, or Clover.

Certain businesses, such as Starbucks and Chick-fil-A, allow customers to pay with a mobile app on their smart phones, using Near Field Communication (NFC). NFC is the set of protocols that enables smartphones and other devices to establish radio communication with each other by touching the devices together.

This is only the beginning. According to forecasts, mobile payments will grow to $189 million in 2018 from $1.8 million in 2013. However, in 2013, only 6% of adult Americans claimed to make payments in a store or restaurant by scanning or tapping their smartphones. The percentage is believed to go up by 10-15% by the end of this year. Currently, 55% of millennials use mobile payment apps. Millennials have become the driving force in the growth of mobile payments. By early 2018, 86-90% of POS terminals in the United States will accept NFC payments.
starbucks-german-american-marketchick-fil-a-german-american-market

SECTION 2: CHICK-FIL-A

Part of my research was to include some facts about Chick-fil-A. I have worked there for the past five-and-a-half years, with four of those years as a manager. Because of my experience with Chick-fil-A, I was able to provide a great deal of information about our POS system.

One way that Chick-fil-A has been innovative with their POS system is that they have created a handheld POS system for use on an iPad. Our team members in the drive-thru use these devices to better serve guests. The product management team was blown away by this and thought it was a very effective way to amp up Chick-fil-A’s customer service.

It was also interesting and fun to help the Germans pronounce “Chick-fil-A.” We had about a five-minute lesson on this.

chick-fil-a-pos-system

SECTION 3: MARKETING STRATEGIES WITH SOCIAL MEDIA

I have found that many Germans do not like, or choose not to use, social media for personal or even business purposes. During my presentation, I stressed how important it has become for American businesses to use social media as part of their marketing strategies. If Orderbird were to come to the United States, the use of social media marketing is a MUST.

Orderbird currently has a Facebook page and a Twitter page, however, they do not post as often as an American business would update their pages. I used my Chick-fil-A’s store Facebook page and Cultural Vistas’ Facebook page as great examples of organizations who constantly update their pages and who do a great job of using social media as part of their marketing strategies.

The product management team also found it quite interesting and funny that Chick-fil-A uses cows as part of our marketing strategy.

social-media-marketing-germany

SECTION 4: TAXES AND ACCOUNTING

This section allowed me to learn more about my own country than that of Germany.

I am an American and trying to explain our tax system to Germans, in German, was probably one of the hardest things I have ever done. I had to switch to English in this section because it was hard enough trying to explain our tax system, let alone doing so in German. The research I did has allowed me to at least understand the American tax system somewhat better than I did before coming to Germany.

I would have never thought I would learn more about my own country while working for a German company.

SECTION 5: HOFSTEDE & CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING

I spent a majority of my presentation speaking about Hofstede’s Cultural Comparison model and cultural understanding.

A majority of businesses who decide to conduct business abroad fail because they do not have a grasp of the culture they are trying to conduct business in. Even though the United States and Germany are very similar, there are some major differences within their business cultures. Some examples I gave in my presentation include communication style, individualism, power distance, and long-term orientation. All of these are very important for a business to understand when they are conducting business within another country.

hofstede-cultural-comparison-germany-usa

During my last weeks at “the bird,” I presented my findings to the other departments. I hope that this can provide Orderbird with the information that they need to be a successful business in the U.S. market. I am looking forward to sharing my knowledge of the U.S. market and continuing to learn more about German business practices and strategies.

This post originally appeared on the blog Discovered in Translation.

Apply to the Cultural Vistas Fellowship by January 26, 2016.

Jonathon VanBrunt

Jonathon VanBrunt participated in the 2015 Cultural Vistas Fellowship in Berlin. He is currently studying German and Applied Business in Atlanta, GA.

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Jonathon VanBrunt

Jonathon VanBrunt participated in the 2015 Cultural Vistas Fellowship in Berlin. He is currently studying German and Applied Business in Atlanta, GA.

View all posts by Jonathon VanBrunt

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