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Retail leaders share their top tips for going global

(Source: Bigstock.)

During the next two years, 20 per cent of all e-commerce sales are expected to be cross-border. This represents a major growth opportunity for retailers, but where should they begin, and what do they need to keep in mind before expanding?

A recent webinar tackled these and other questions with insights from Jeremy Krause, chief innovation and disruption officer at Global Retail Brands, Halie Adams, senior product marketing manager at BigCommerce, and Mathew Hosking, head of commercial ANZ at Klarna.

Krause shared some of the biggest lessons he’s learned from launching some of Global Retail Brands’ kitchenware businesses in the US and UK, while Adams and Hosking shared their top tips for setting up international e-commerce sites.

You can watch the full webinar on-demand here , or check out some of the highlights from the discussion below.

  1. Think global, act local

One of the most important takeaways from the webinar was how important it is for retailers to tailor their offerings to the local market. Researching consumer behaviour and hiring local talent are two good ways to gain insight into a new market, according to Krause.

“We’ve spent a lot of time in the US, actually understanding and researching what the market wants, getting on the ground, speaking to the brand ambassadors in the stores, and speaking to the sales associates that are on the shop floor, and understanding if they think there’s a market [for our product],” he said.

  1. Get the fundamentals right

When it comes to setting up an international e-commerce site, it’s all about removing friction.

“You want the experience to be as seamless as possible,” Adams said.

This means purchasing a local domain or subdomain, translating text into the local language (or choosing a market with a shared language), supporting the right payment methods, setting up logistics to enable fast delivery and collecting and displaying taxes correctly.

“You want to remove any reasons to give doubts,” Hosking added.

  1. Build brand awareness

No matter how big a business is in its home market, when it goes into a new market, it needs to invest in building brand awareness. As Krause said, “If [people] don’t know you, how are you going to sell anything?”

However, retailers don’t need to spend a fortune on digital advertising to do so. Here are some alternative ideas for building brand awareness without breaking the bank.

  • Partnerships : Hosking noted that payment providers like Klarna often enjoy high levels of brand awareness around the world, which retailers can benefit from when they launch in a new market. “We can provide a warm introduction through our channels, app, socials and CRM, that can provide a platform for growth,” he said.
  • Events : Adams said retailers should identify the biggest local events for their industry and ensure they have a presence there to showcase their products. “That’s a really great thing that you can do to establish brand awareness early on,” she said.
  • Word of mouth : Krause recommended taking an organic approach. “Once you start spending on Google, you then become reliant on Google AdWords,” he said. “Start building a really strong feedback and reviews engine because that will start growing and people will become your ambassadors regardless.”
  1. Avoid the pitfalls

According to Krause, missteps are inevitable in the process of going global. “It’s good to make mistakes,” he said. “You need to learn from them.”

However, retailers can still try to avoid some of the biggest pitfalls, such as not understanding the local market, or trying to target too many overseas markets.

“To really be successful, choose the right markets and test and learn in those markets to see which ones are successful,” Adams said.

Hosking said retailers can lean on their partners for data and advice.

“They may be able to share [information] from similar companies that have gone down that road before,” he said.

The most important thing that Krause, Adams and Hosking all agreed on is that it’s the right time to go global.

“If you don’t take advantage of it now, you’re only going to look back and be upset,” Krause said.