Nowadays, due to globalization, many brands feel like their natural development leads them in an international direction. However, this change is not always easy, or the right choice for everyone. Before you take your firm any further, there are several things that you should take into account. With the help of our Vice President and Head of Business Development, Dr. Roman Hrycyk, we’ve highlighted some of the key factors that help to make your international expansion a success.
1. Define your local profile
It might sound basic, but it’s one of the most important things to do: go local before you go global. Analyse the strengths and weaknesses of your company in your current market and make a list of the additional value that you could add to the international market (eg. are you going to provide a one-on-one experience? How are you going to customize and broaden the choice for your future clients?). You need to have a clear view of the message and image you want to share across the world. Stylight’s international expansion is based on this strategy and is currently available in 15 countries. Dr. Roman Hrycyk, VP and Head of our Business Development, gives us a deeper insight about it: “Stylight has been able to strongly grow its business model through internationalisation. During the first couple of years we have been working on finding and improving a business model that works for both our clients and for us. Once accomplished, we then shifted our focus on expanding internationally. Stylight is now live in 15 countries, becoming the leading redirect fashion platform in many of them”.
Another factor to bear in mind, is that you need to have enough resources and structural stability to add staff who would solely look after the international aspects of your business. Dealing with cultural changes and different shopping habits will be way easier to handle if you have native, experienced people working on the convergence. We already tried and tested it at our Stylight headquarters, having an international team is the key to offer the best brand and user experience, Dr. Roman Hrycyk tells us how we got there: “Successful internationalisation requires having a mix of a standardised and scalable services, a way to localise each site to a certain degree, and last but not least, the management of people that have the skills to quickly grow the business with the best partner stores in every country”.
2. Do your homework
Once you have covered the internal research in your company, it’s time to take a deeper look at the country you want to expand into. If it has similar culture and shopping habits, it would make things a lot easier, but you still need to do research about it. The first thing to do is ensure that you have a customer base in the new country. Consider questions like: ‘why would people buy via my website instead of doing it via a local one?’, ‘which factors differentiate my products from the ones already available?’.
Kara Eschbach, co-founder of Verily Magazine, recommends consulting multiple sources in order to get a 360º vision of the country. Use all the previous research that have been made, go for the Big Data, especially the ones provided by fashion retailers. It will not only give you insights about the shopping habits of the market, but also about the permissions and restrictions of each brand in the country. And always keep in mind the old proverb “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”: measuring your possible competitors and examining their business models can provide you with useful details of what works (or doesn’t) in that country. Additionally, consider which services you would need to outsource or which ones you need to grow in-house to support your expansion, “you have to prioritize and understand what the core of your business is” affirms Nadine McCarthy, co-founder of Stone&Strand. Depending on the level of development of the market you want to enter, it might be necessary to delegate some of the non-head tasks. If your company can afford it, it is always a good idea to invest in growing your staff. Even if it’s challenging to set and coordinate a strategy for a big team, you will reap the benefits in the long run, having such control over the time and the quality of each activity.
Last but not least, take a deep look into social media. Nowadays clients tend to express their satisfaction, or dissatisfaction, through channels like Instagram or Facebook.
They might not write about their shopping experience specifically, but they do like content, follow or unfollow profiles, and advise other customers through comments on posts. Pay attention to all these signs and interpret which are your future clients’ needs and expectations. An additional tip related to this topic is to check which local influencers might suit your brand. They usually come hand-in-hand with an increase in a brand’s awareness, so consider them a good option to lead your awareness-trip. One example of its effectivity is the collaboration between Stylight and the Spanish trendsetter Dulceida; a TV advertisement took us to the next level in terms of international awareness.
It’s important to transmit the essence of your company, of course, but you need to think about which aspects you want to draw attention to. You need to keep the balance between being true to your brand and adapting your key messages and products to the new market. One of the best options is to establish partnerships with local brands or local retailers that want to increase their international awareness while growing in their local market too. The Head of our Business Development team walks through Stylight’s strategy stating: “Stylight focuses on a scalable business model that allows to continuously expand to further markets and subsequently grow each market rapidly. Each of Stylight’s 15 sites is adapted to local fashion preferences through Stylight’s business development department. The team carefully selects a mixture of top retailers and brands from around the world as well as local boutiques, domestic brands and retailers from each market. Thereby an assortment is created that is inspiring for the users and reflects local demands”.
Pick carefully which elements you want to use and measure the impact they might have on the new country. Besides this, you also need to be aware that it is really easy to lose perspective once the expansion process has started, so make sure to plan ahead by setting goals that match the expectations you have of the expansion so you always keep the focus in that direction. And remember, simple ideas are the best ideas. We live in a 24/7 demanding world that can be transformed virtually overnight, so use ideas that are fast to launch and that provide you with almost immediate feedback. Make small but continuous changes!
|By Miriam Gaztelumendi – Brand Marketing Intern|