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IRX 2014 PREVIEW Dave Elston of Clarks on moving into new markets

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Dave Elston, head of ecommerce, Europe, at Clarks, is one of the speakers at Internet Retailing Expo 2014 (IRX 2014), where he’ll be interviewed on moving into new international markets.

As well as selling through , the shoe retailer has websites for the US, France, Germany, Spain and Netherlands and the EU. We caught up with Dave Elston ahead of the show.

Internet Retailing: What’s the biggest opportunity that moving into new markets offers – and how has Clarks benefitted from doing so?

Dave Elston, head of ecommerce, Europe, Clarks: There’s a sales benefit, but there’s also a brand benefit. You’re able to tell a consistent story about the brand and get some good consistent messages out there, helping to raise the brand and move people’s awareness of the brand on.

For example, in Spain, our customers have gone into Clarks franchise stores and department stores where our shoes are sold and have bought some very traditional Clarks shoes, shoes focused on comfort above style. What we’ve done online is help to shift that perception of what Clarks shoes are. We’re putting a lot more fashionable products online, helping to shift consumer perception of the brand.

IR: What is the biggest challenge of going into new markets?

DE: There are many, many challenges. Consumers behave differently in many countries. It feels like a fairly obvious thing to say, but they shop websites differently. In Germany they use the internal search box and left-hand navigation. In France they tend to use more banners in the middle of pages. The user experience and how they use websites is quite different. You think everyone uses websites in the same way, but they don’t.

There are also well-documented differences around returns, payment types and consumer fulfillment.

For us, the other point to consider is that we’re quite a wholesale business – we’re a brand rather than a retailer, selling most of our shoes outside the UK through wholesalers and franchise stores. Launching a B2C business within that organisational structure is very challenging. It requires a lot of work and engagement – it’s a constant thing.

IR: What one piece of advice would you give to others considering taking this step, based on your own experience?

DE: For me the really useful thing was talking to people who had already done it. I would find a couple of people who are happy to talk about their experiences and talk to them.

IR: Beyond your presentation, what are you most looking forward to about IRX?

DE: I want to have a good look for interesting things. What would interest me are the new things that people are doing, and then hearing from some of the brands who are speaking, rather than general retailers, so I can understand what other brands are doing.

Dave Elston will appear in the International and Crossborder conference at IRX 2014. He’ll be interviewed on the subject of Key questions for expanding your ecommerce business into new countries at 11.10am on March 26.

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