Does your business have the recipe for international growth?
There’s a big world out there, full of people who could become customers. But is your business ready to serve them? Developing a scalable business model will enhance your operational capabilities, increase the capacity to gather and exploit business intelligence, and recalibrate your relationships with suppliers and partners.
Any omnichannel retailer growing at a healthy rate should be considering the commercial opportunities that international expansion could offer. Growing your business overseas enables you to consider new markets, but it can also improve the way you serve existing customers.
Developing a scalable business model will enhance your operational capabilities, increase the capacity to gather and exploit business intelligence, and recalibrate your relationships with suppliers and other business partners. Becoming an international business can also help to attract talented people to come and work for your company.
Some of these benefits can be realised, to some extent, simply by shipping goods to individual overseas customers. But a strategic approach to international expansion, constructing a technology infrastructure capable of running omnichannel operations in multiple countries, will deliver much greater rewards.
What are the key ingredients for international success?
If you’re expanding internationally, effective strategies may entail the use of various business models at various times in different markets. Outsourcing supply chain and logistics functions, or elements within the IT infrastructure may be a good choice, both operationally and economically.
Each new market will pose different challenges, related to regulatory or cultural conditions, or to the mix of stock or the business models that will appeal to consumers. Therefore, the speed at which a retailer scales up activities is likely to differ from one territory to the next. As the need to scale up – or scale back – IT capabilities may be difficult to predict, use of cloud-based IT infrastructures is a sensible way to manage different territories.
The success of international expansion also rests, to a large degree, on the effective expansion of supply chains, including efficient collaboration with suppliers and service providers. Cloud technology may have an important role to play here too; effective cross-channel integration between business systems certainly will.
In some countries, a retailer will seek to open new stores, while in others, online channels will be the primary means of interacting with consumers. Research suggests that consumers in many countries are unwilling to buy goods through what they perceive as ‘foreign’ websites, so retailers will need to launch and support local websites.
Are you globally consistent, but locally relevant?
Local language and website structure preferences, as well as delivery options most favoured by consumers in that country, should be taken into consideration. There will also be a need to ensure that your employees can access technical support in accordance with local language and service preferences.
Additionally, you will need to offer preferred payment method options. These can vary widely, even within western Europe: in Germany, the direct debit-like Elektronisches Lastschriftverfahren (ELV) payment method is popular online, for example. Cheque payment also remains very popular in some countries, for both in-store and online payments.
But although the customer experience should be tailored to match local preferences, it is also important to strive for a degree of consistency. This will help to strengthen perceptions of your brand across borders. Within each country, the use of customer data to personalise omnichannel customer interactions will make a major contribution to the customer experience. In addition, it will increase the effectiveness of customer service functions and marketing programmes.
Do you have the right partner for global growth?
The ultimate purpose of redeveloping supply chain, store and online infrastructures is to provide an excellent customer experience in any territory – while keeping costs under control and maximising profits. This will not be possible without a technology infrastructure that enables you to scale operations when needed, to fulfil all the requirements of an international omnichannel retail business.
To ensure effectiveness on a global scale, retailers should seek to partner with service providers that understand the requirements of selling in multiple countries, and can help you achieve your specific objectives.
Fundamentally, retailers need technology solutions capable of providing the integrated business systems, store network and supply chain management functions that can deliver a consistently excellent customer experience across multiple countries. And the technologies needed to make this possible are available today.
With well-planned tech investments, and careful adaptation of business processes, any retailer has the recipe to develop a successful international business.