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IRC 2017 INTERVIEW Philip Driver of Canon Europe on planning for international expansion

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Ahead of this year’s InternetRetailing Conference (IRC 2017) we’re previewing the event through features and interviews with key speakers. This week we hear from Philip Driver, head of ecommerce, EMEA, at Canon Europe.

InternetRetailing: At IRC 2017 you’ll be speaking on a panel on developing digital ability to structure and accelerate international business. Where do you see the opportunities for retailers and brands selling internationally in 2017?

Philip Driver, head of ecommerce EMEA at Canon Europe: I think it’s a great time to be a brand thinking about international expansion but it’s not without its hurdles. Irrespective of the market, its maturity, competitive landscape or localisation considerations there has never been a better time to be a brand that cares about customers. Customer focus and quality of service crosses all international boundaries and wins business.

On top of this we are also seeing some really interesting emerging markets (Middle East, South America) come through and previously so called emerging markets such as China open up further as consumer tastes become more westernised and disposable income in middle class segments continues to grow. There are still big gains to be had in traditional EFIGS markets though and getting our premium ecommerce experience right for European customers is our focus at Canon right now.

IR: What is the one big digital challenge that you see standing in their way?

PD: There are the typical issues of rolling out in a new country of language, legal and tax compliance which you just have to get right. Another big one is local payments and delivery options. The other issue you see repeated time and again, especially with entrants to the Chinese market is, how do you maintain your brand and localise for the market. A lot of companies take a copy and paste approach to localisation and market rollout, believing that their brand experience will carry them through.

This is fine if you are looking to scale quickly, build your presence and with a popular product or brand customers may be willing to allow for this, but only up to a certain point. Simple things can have a jarring impact to conversion: one example from a previous role I had was finding we had an American format date in our customer sign-up page. It may seem like nothing but this was actually having a detrimental impact on our sign-up rate. Customers don’t like friction and poor localisation is a major cause of this. You cant make customers change to fit your brand, you need to change your brand to fit them.

IR: What one or two pieces of advice do you have for those looking to overcome this challenge?

PD: Take the time to understand your markets and never get complacent or arrogant. Some companies do this really well, including ones you might think would be ready to follow the copy and paste approach such as KFC or McDonalds. I spend a lot of time in China and Taiwan and you can walk into a KFC there and you immediately know it’s KFC. The branding is all there, the tables are the same, the packaging, the uniforms, everything. But when you look up at the menu above the counter you won’t find much you recognise as a westerner. They have totally localised their menu, not their brand or their values. It seems like a very brave move to change your menu but they are seeing huge success in Asia right now because they localised the right element of their business.

IR: Looking further ahead, are there one or two international opportunities that you think traders should be planning for over the next five years?

PD: I think with continued globalisation and as technology becomes cheaper and easier to help businesses reach new customers and markets we will see further democratisation of ecommerce and new and interesting entrants and opportunities. I feel sure this will centre around mobile but I suspect not quite as people expect.

In addition the age of the customer is already well and truly here and we are now moving further into the data and personalisation side of that evolution. Companies that can crack personalisation and manage big data whilst still being totally legally compliant (GDPR being on the horizon) will have a distinct competitive advantage.

IR: Aside from your own panel discussion, what are you most looking forward to at IRC 2017?

PD: It’s the opportunity to hear from my peers. I really enjoy listening to how other companies are handling similar challenges to our own. You can never be complacent but it’s also nice to hear that everyone has the same issues sometimes too!

Philip Driver is speaking in the Adapt & Expand Conference at IRC 2017. His presentation, How to develop digital agility in order to structure and accelerate international business, is at 4.15pm at the October 5 conference.

This is the 12th annual edition of the event and this year focuses on energising retail. It runs alongside sister event the eDelivery Conference, and will be held at the Novotel, Hammersmith, London. One pass gives entry to both events with speakers including Giles Delafeld, global CIO, Clarks; Bill Hopkins, executive director of operations and logistics, Trainline; Philip Driver, head of ecommerce EMEA, Canon Europe; and Regis Koenig, director of customer services, Darty.

For further information on the conferences, and to register for your delegate pass, visit

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