The overseas market presents major opportunities for most retailers, and at The Retail Hive's recent meeting, Cracking International Markets, it was evident that expansion is on everyone's wish list.
Venturing away from the UK market is a challenge, but one of the biggest keys to sustainable overseas success is an understanding of your local customers, with a focus on tailoring your customer journey and online experience. Without the right model and best ROI approach, a barrier could form between retailers and consumers – be it currency, culture, ease of returns or payment options.
With retailers vying for market share in sought-after markets in China, USA and Germany, the upper hand lies in developing a long-term strategy to adapt to each region's climate. It may not be a quick win, but will offer the most reward.
At The Retail Hive's Cracking International Markets meeting, members agreed that to maintain a successful overseas strategy retailers must:
- Know your customer. A hands-off approach is not enough: you must spend time in your market, with your target audience.
- Be different. You need to stand out – from other international brands and entrenched local competition.
- Focus. Don't try to do too much at once. What are you trying to achieve – and where are you best placed to achieve it?
- Prioritise. Think about your motive, and asses the size of the opportunity and level of complexity involved.
- Support. When it comes to international, talk to your peers – even those who are in competition. The more retailers can share their experience, the more we will all progress.
The meeting saw retail leaders from over 80 brands come together to share their insight into their own international strategies, from first steps to full localisation. In a series of roundtable discussions, brand leaders talked through the opportunities and problems they have encountered on their journeys into overseas markets.
The full insights will be published in a post-event report, but for now, here are just a few of the outcomes from the event:
- Translations are often the last step. Other barriers must be broken down to create an accessible, integrated experience in a new market, such as payment options, culture and currency.
- Opportunity to capitalise on global begins at home. This is especially true of the Chinese market: students, tourists and the international Chinese diaspora wield a significant influence on the market.
- Choosing the right time is as important as choosing the right market. Don't expand overseas if you are fighting fires at home. Support at board level is also vital – expansion will not succeed without it.
- Know the true cost of your market. The price of success in Germany, for instance, is often free returns and invoice – not instant – payment. Don't enter the market if you're not ready to absorb this cost.
- Find the right balance between control and localisation. Most retailers at the event felt that this was still a work in progress, and something that would continue to develop for the foreseeable future.
The event was well received by Retail Hive Members. One commented: "Talk, listen and learn loads.
You can save your business time and money by absorbing and acting on the experiences shared in The Hive events."
Sally Green, Co-founder and Editorial Director, commented on the event: "Peer-to-peer support really is vital as retailers export their brands internationally. It was great to hear so many retail leaders doing this at today's meeting, with retailers at every step of the journey taking part in frank, open conversations about the challenges they face, and sharing their achievements. At the Retail Hive Network, we are pleased to be in a position to open this dialogue between brands and play our part in driving the retail industry into a globalised future."