By Gary Lombardo, Demandware

In my previous post, I highlighted the first 2 of the 5 key takeaways from the Global Commerce Executive Workshop that really stood out when it comes to navigating the new global commerce reality. Here are the additional 3:

3. A flexible technology footprint is necessary to grow commerce operations.

Moving quickly into new markets with minimal resource outlay is critical for global commerce success. The ability for a retailer to be successful in moving quickly is largely determined by the technology footprint that drives its operations. The commerce platform, in particular, plays a crucial role. A commerce platform that is not built to support global operations, or requires a massive amount of capital outlay to build and maintain server farms and other infrastructure in various regions, can bog down global commerce expansion plans. Conversely, a commerce platform that is purpose built with global capabilities—such as possessing multi-site, multi-currency, multi-lingual capabilities—and allows retailers to focus on innovating, marketing and merchandising to local consumers, rather than managing disparate server farms around the globe, provides an advantage in global expansion.

Specialty Fashion Group, Australia’s largest fashion group, is comprised of 9 brands. One of these brands, Cotton On—which has over 1,200 retail stores in 16 countries across the globe (Source: Specialty Fashion Group)—offered insights at the workshop around their approach to successfully re-design their global commerce operations by leveraging a cloud-based commerce platform as the foundation of their global commerce operations. Cameron Davis, Group Digital Services Manager, discussed how Cotton On’s legacy on-premise platform lacked the feature set and scalability to expand globally. Even when they could roll out a new global site, it would take months and require a huge investment in both people and computing resources. By leveraging a cloud-based platform, they can be free from these restrictions and instead “chase the sun”—a phrase that Cotton On uses to describe their mantra of deriving value from everything they do.

 

4. One size does not fit all.

This may be the most important takeaway from the Global Commerce Executive Workshop. It is critical to ensure retailers localize all aspects of the business to satisfy local consumer preferences. Localization should occur throughout every point of the consumer experience, including the user experience on the website, language, currency, product selection—including variations and descriptions—checkout process, customer service, payment types and fulfillment preferences, just to name a few.

Paul Kennedy, CIO of the Apparel Group, explained that, when working for a previous company (John Lewis, based in the UK), he launched the brand in the US and needed to account for local language differences (UK English vs. US English), tax law differences among the states, freight and local delivery differences, payment preferences and local competitors, which impacted pricing and customer service.

James Johnson, Digital Group Manager explained how Michael Hill, a leading Australian jeweler, experienced similar challenges when they expanded into the US. They needed to provide a different classification of carat weight on their product detail pages for rings that would be sold in the US since carat measurement in Australia and other parts of the world differs from the US.

 

5. Partnerships are essential to expanding globally and executing locally.

Global commerce expansion is complicated. It involves taking a deeper look at back-end systems (e.g., order management system and CRM, to name a few) and front-end experiences (e.g. payment, social and SEO & SEM), to ensure they are all adapted to local vendors and consumer preferences. Navigating the vendor landscape requires partners who understand the local market and can help make the right choice of back-end and front-end systems. Often times, this partner is a solution partner (or systems integrator), who can help with the local design, implementation and integration with best-in-breed front-end and back-end systems. And it’s worth noting that most of the time, these partners will vary by country, and sometimes even by region. For instance, Deckers used different partners in Asia-Pacific than other parts of the world, and even used different partners in each country (namely China and Japan) to effectively navigate the vendor ecosystem and establish commerce operations.

As the world increasingly becomes more inter-dependent, retailers must embrace the new global commerce reality to successfully tap the opportunity global expansion represents.

Interested in learning more about best practices for a successful global expansion? Check out our paper The Global Commerce Framework: How Retailers Move Faster, Grow Faster Internationally for more insights.