03/09/2015

By Eric Fergusson, Head of Retail Services, eCommera

Retail is becoming increasingly global: by the end of 2015 eCommerce is expected to account for 6.7% of all retail sales around the world. And with consumers in Asia-Pacific spending more online last year than those in any other geography worldwide, the appeal for brands and retailers to break into this region – and other new markets such as LATAM, Europe and the USA – is clear.

However, one size does not fit all and a different market often means a whole new way of working. Below are 10 key steps to consider as part of a successful international expansion strategy.

1. Adapt your proposition to suit the market

It is important that you review and adapt your current proposition in order to make it relevant and effective in a new market. A good proposition will be a mix of product, price, availability, service and customer experience and of course this will differ from market to market.

Do your research and gain an understanding of what the customer expectations will be in the new market, ensure you conduct a thorough competitor analysis and then adapt your proposition as required.

2. Turn your vision into an operational plan

Having a clear goal in mind will help justify the cost of the expansion into a new market. Your goal should be based on understanding customer acquisition and retention – the fundamental drivers of growth. Set realistic online goals to avoid over-investing, by separately modelling customers, categories and channels.

3. Localise to meet consumer expectations & behaviours

One of the most important things when trying to succeed in a new market is a localised website. It isn’t enough to just change the language; you must also take into account the cultural differences. For example, in Japan 30% of online revenue comes from mCommerce. Their advanced use of technology and high expectations will require new entrants to have a very clear mobile strategy and a well-structured mobile website.

4. Select the right technology partner

Choosing the right technology to help you launch into a new market can be just as important as picking the market itself. Be sure to do your research and ask questions about whether the provider has clients live in that area, what success looks like in that specific market and if they have relationships with local third-party providers.

5. Decide on the right organisational structure for your business

Getting the right people and structuring a successful team in another country is a lot more difficult than it sounds. Some brands move into new markets with no physical people on the ground and others develop full local teams. It is important to understand what is right for your business and planning for flexibility is the key to success.

6. Promotion, promotion, promotion

Once you are present in a new market, it is time to build up brand awareness. This can be achieved through a wide range of channels including paid search, affiliates, social media and re-targeting.

Some brands have already succeeded with this approach: Topshop managed to build its reputation in the US thanks to strong PR, a tailored US website, the launch of a single flagship store and an exclusive partnership with Nordstrom.

7. Create a localised planogram

The extent of global variations affecting customers is huge and this requires a localised planogram. The key is to balance global simplicity with local optimisation by developing a set of global rules, and then localising where necessary.

8. Build a local promise and deliver on it

When a customer makes an online order you are effectively making a promise to that consumer and this must include details around payments and security, optimal international delivery, a local returns address and an effective customer service model.

9. Ensure you are adapting and creating new processes

When implementing eCommerce in a new region there can be over a hundred different processes that need to be addressed or adapted. For example, you need to think about how you might manage local returns if you don’t have a regional warehouse.

10. Review performance

eCommerce is often data rich but information poor; therefore it is important to measure the performance of each new market separately. And as the dynamics of international markets are so different, setting the right benchmarks and evaluating success can be difficult.

Going global is no easy feat; there are huge opportunities but also challenges to overcome. And unfortunately, domestic success will never guarantee international triumph – but with the right plans, processes and resources, the rewards of branching out internationally can be huge.

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