Selling the high seas: tapping into the global retail opportunity

Posted by Sarah Taylor on Wed, Feb 27, 2019
Retailers and brands are always looking for the next big opportunity, and increasingly that doesn’t start at home. Saturated domestic markets are pushing their vision further afield; with global ecommerce sales predicted to grow by 21.5% in 2019 and 63.4% of European online shoppers buying from overseas retailers. 


However, with reward comes risk, and there is a lot at stake for retailers expanding overseas. They have a reputation to uphold and need to deliver the same online and offline standards that customers are used to experiencing on home turf.

So how can retail brands start selling internationally without compromising on customer experience? Here are some key considerations when launching in new territories – with lessons from retailers that have already conquered the high seas…

Lesson 1: choose your model wisely
With a product range, business infrastructure and warehouse in place, retailers have the basic pillars they need to trade anywhere in the world - in theory. However, many don’t feel they have the knowledge or strategy to make the leap of faith.

Finding the right entry model is key to determining consumer appetite at the lowest possible risk. Many retailers choose a marketplace approach, as the structure for selling locally is already in place, along with a ready-made customer base.

Today, marketplaces don’t just equate to Amazon. We mentioned some newer platforms in our recent
blog about flexible retailingand there are others shaking up the international retail market. Fashion platform Zalando now has over 24 million customers, for example, and is active in over fifteen European countries – with designs to double in size by 2020.

Another marketplace with an aggressive growth strategy is Wayfair, which deals mainly in furniture and furnishings. In Q1 last year alone, Wayfair increased its global sales by 48% - outpacing Amazon by 15% - and it is now investigating US bricks-and-mortar opportunities.

For retailers looking for a simple(ish) way to expand overseas, online marketplaces are a relatively low maintenance method. And they don’t have to be the sole operational channel either; some retailers test the water through marketplaces before building their own direct-to-market presence.

Lesson 2: optimise ALL aspects of your online offering 
Whether it’s a marketplace or standalone website, ecommerce is critical to international growth. However, to resonate in new regions, retailers need to optimise their online presence for each local audience. There’s a lot to consider, including:
  • Terminology – it goes without saying that customers want to shop in their native language, but that involves more than simply translating text. Product descriptions need to be meaningful; there’s a big difference between selling pants in the UK and pants in the USA, for example!

  • Product descriptions – many consumers want detailed product descriptions and measurements, especially with a brand they’ve never purchased from. Fashion retailers also need to think about the sizing structure, to ensure consumers understand which choice will fit best

  • Payment – online shoppers expect to pay in their local currency, and this experience needs to be seamless. Retailers must take into account the complexities of transacting in multiple currencies, including tax and VAT requirements

One interesting sector that is growing through ecommerce is premium men’s fashion. Retailers like The Savile Row Company are tapping into their world-famous reputation and translating it into a luxury online experience for overseas customers. 

And with
Euromonitor International Research predicting that global menswear sales growth will outpace womenswear by the end of 2020, the potential reward for exploiting this opportunity is huge.

To capitalise on international ecommerce expansion, however, retailers need to ensure their high brand standards are upheld in every territory. A flexible back-end system is critical to achieving this effortless ecommerce experience across the world, and retailers who understand the need for integration are already seeing the benefits. For example, The Savile Row Company accepts local currency payments in all its international markets – from Australia to Japan to the USA – while the software takes care of country specific factors such as tax. 

Lesson 3: think about what happens after the checkout
While many expanding retailers put attention and resources into front-end activities, too many will fall at the final hurdle when building a consistent customer experience. 

The real hard work starts when someone has placed their order, and speed of delivery is critical to customer satisfaction. Finding the right platform is key to achieving this; for example, jewellery brand Astley Clarke has grown its international footprint using Global-e for cross-border ecommerce.

“We have transformed the way our international customers shop with us by providing them with a fully localized ecommerce experience tailored to their market. We’ve grown profits, revenue and conversation rates exponentially, and witnessed increased satisfaction from our international customers,” 
remarked Astley Clarke’s Head of Ecommerce, Vicky Bell, in a recent case study

Some retailers are building a global reputation on their ability to have the stock available and delivered to the customer in a timely manner. One example is Axminster, which sells tools and machinery to retail customers and a vast range of businesses. The retailer has seen an uplift in overseas sales since onboarding software to manage the overseas payment and fulfilment process, all of which is conducted within their branded website. 

Lesson 4: work with the right partners  
As Axminster’s success shows, the key to global growth is working with partners that are experts in international retail. 

Developing a global customer base relies on a great user experience and delivering on promises – and this is only possible if retailers have the right technology to support a seamless customer journey everywhere in the world. 

Actively working with retailers to expand their international footprint means Sanderson Multi-Channel Retail Solutions is well-versed in navigating the complexities of selling overseas. 

We’re here to help retailers find the right tech infrastructure for international growth, and ensure that software is fully integrated with their existing systems. Our Sanderson multi-channel retail software provides retailers with the flexibility they need to test new markets and explore untapped opportunities for increasing business profits. 

See how our software can take your retail strategy global.

Book your place at our International Commerce round table: 


Topics: Multi-Channel Software, Multi-Channel Retail, Lean Retailing, Improving retail operations