IREU Top500 12 approaches to strategy and innovation
In a retail landscape where international expansion is the key to sustained growth, offering approaches that are innovative in a home market to shoppers in other European countries may offer retailers a first-mover advantage. Conversely, importing retail strategies that are widely used in other markets can prove innovative at home. The overall result will be a retail environment across the European Economic Area, plus Switzerland, that increasingly adapts and flexes to customer demand. Here are some of the approaches that impressed us during the course of this research.1. Make it easy for shoppers to buy via mobile
Retailers benefit when they enable shoppers to buy in ways that are most convenient for these customers. In many markets, that will mean over smartphones – and shoppers that download a mobile app are likely to be among the most loyal, returning for an easy experience. That’s particularly true when the mobile app functions in the local language and offers sophisticated functionality that compares well with local competitors.
German footwear retailer Deichmann, which uses 18 languages to sell in 19 EEA countries, enables its customers in Germany, the UK, Austria and Italy to buy via localised, transactional iOS and Android apps. The apps offer some advanced functionality that’s relatively unusual among Top500 retailers. Features include barcode scanners and store stock checkers, while customers can also see star ratings and both read and leave product reviews.
Meanwhile, UK fast-fashion business Asos enables shoppers in France, Germany, Italy and Spain to buy via localised Android and iOS apps. Customers can view daily deals, save products for later and share them on social media.2. Talk to shoppers on social media
Retailers use social media to great effect when they tailor messaging to local markets, talking to shoppers in their own languages and on the social media platforms these customers use. That can amplify a retailer’s voice and raise brand awareness in new markets.
InternetRetailing research shows that French sporting equipment retailer Decathlon talks to its customers over 10 social media channels. It has 13 country-specific, local language Facebook feeds. The Spanish site had the largest following at the time of the research, with 2.3m Likes. Decathlon has nine country-specific Twitter handles. Again, Spain leads the way: Decathlon’s Spanish feed had 377,000 followers.
Speaking to InternetRetailing for the IREU Top500 Brand Engagement Performance Dimension Report, Decathlon’s Kieran O’Shea, explained how the retailer used social media differently between markets. Twitter is a key channel for the sports equipment retailer in the UK, with more followers than Decathlon France, whereas in France, it is more likely to communicate to visitors via stores.
It’s important, he explained, to target shoppers precisely. “We go in-depth with our retail marketing so that we can talk to the right customers with the right offers at the right time,” he said. “The last thing I want to do is pay to reach someone that’s not interested. I avoid that by going in-depth in my targeting, and making sure that what I’m serving to customers is what they want.”3. Give customers the service they need
The better the customer service that shoppers encounter when they have a query or a complaint, the more likely they are to return to buy another time. That’s just as important for customers buying from international websites, where a local telephone number, alongside easy-to-understand delivery and returns information, can be reassuring to browsers who are considering buying but are not yet convinced.
Spanish-owned Zara stands out in the IREU Top500 for its pan-European customer service. It delivers the same standard of service across the 28 EEA countries that it services in 23 languages. Because it enables shopper feedback across its operations, it is also able to respond quickly to comments, and to make fast changes to its designs and services.4. Reflect the needs of local shoppers
Retailers target shoppers in overseas markets effectively through websites that offer local languages, payments and currencies. Many retailers limit that strategy to just a few websites targeting chosen markets. Some large retailers, however, target many more in an approach that works well for globally focused strategies. Enabling a local feel works well for brands that have a high recognition factor and logistics expertise.
Holland-headquartered global retailer Ikea has more than 30 different websites serving Europe alone, including three sites for Switzerland, in German, French and Italian, and three for mainland Spain, in Spanish, Catalan and Basque. This represents a market-leading level of attention to detail that’s also backed up by stores in 50 markets around the world, including 26 countries in Europe.
Other retailers that localise to a high degree include fashion retailer Next, which has dedicated local currency and local language websites for more than 30 European markets, including Gibraltar; Zara, with almost 30 transactional websites for EEA markets including Switzerland and the Canary Islands; and BonPrix, with local language websites for more than 20 European markets.This piece first appeared in the IREU Top500 Strategy & Innovation Report 2017. Click here to read the rest of the 12 things. Click here to explore the Top500 series in more detail.