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Conclusion – August 2015

And so, for another year, we come to the end of the international journey and as ever what a journey it has been. We have explored the international strategies and experiences of nearly 20 retailers and retail experts to understand how, why and where they are expanding.

We have heard from retailers who are still at the early stages of international expansion to retailers who have expanded successfully into multiple markets and are inspiring their peers to do the same – remember what a popular choice ASOS was in the admired retailers section?

The range of retailers who have given up their time to be interviewed provides a powerful insight into the strategies and challenges that businesses of all shapes and sizes have when expanding overseas and for their time I am very grateful. This report really wouldn’t have been the same without the input of you all and this year’s range of interviewees is truly inspiring whatever stage of the international journey they are on. I have of course to also say a big thank you to our sponsors whose insight and expertise helped to shape the foundations of this report and who are valuable partners for retailers looking overseas.

But what have we learnt? The lessons, in truth, haven’t really changed too much for 2015. Retailers have to ensure their businesses are ready for expansion from both a systems, processes and indeed cultural point of view with everyone ready to embrace the new challenges it brings. Retailers can’t assume that international expansion will work for them simply because everyone else is doing it or the general market consensus is that they “should” be doing it. If you are going to expand abroad you have to do it for the right reasons not the wrong.

International expansion offers huge opportunity for new growth, greater scalability and a worldwide brand presence. But it comes with neither lack of challenges or risks. Delivery and returns remain as key issues as they ever have been with increased focus now on where and how to hold stock. Such trends are likely to continue to develop over the coming twelve months.

Localisation is becoming more complicated than ever as customer expectations rise. It’s no longer acceptable for a retailer serious about international expansion to just assume that a quick translation of a website counts as an internationalised, local site. Instead our research this year points to retailers having to put more effort than ever into truly localised content, messaging, marketing and merchandising.

All of this translates to the success of the transference of the retailer’s brand experience overseas – or not. As hinted at above customers expect more than ever from retailers and to deliver less than they expect risks harming the brand experience in markets where you may only just be getting your foot in the door. Our extensive spotlight case studies section of this report highlights the brilliant work that many have already done in this area of international expansion – whether they are just starting out on the journey or are much more advanced and considering where next. Reread that section and see what lessons you can learn to help you boldly go where you may never have been before.

Bon voyage!

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