Quick. Easy. Convenient. Three simple words that translate well and define consumer expectations the world over. Knowing this to be true and responding accordingly is a key factor for successful retailers, as evidenced in this year’s International Retail Index. Meeting these demands in your home market is one thing but expanding market share internationally can present several challenges.
Those challenges can be daunting. Language, currency, first time deliveries and culture are all potential barriers. But huge markets like China, with a massive, digitally connected population, with over 100m people regularly accessing e-commerce sites outside of China, look very attractive.
The good news is that over the last few years innovative retail technologies have emerged to make expansion easier than ever before. Global Payment services that can be enabled with just a few lines of code. Addressing systems that understand the 130+ different international postal address formats and know your customer’s address simply from the location of their smartphone or wearable device. There are also exciting developments in voice technology allowing consumers to not only browse products but also search for their address in the checkout by simply saying where they are. This exciting blend of technology is what is helping to make internationalisation a realistic objective for an ever-greater number of retailers.
We are delighted to once again launch the International Retail Index to celebrate and learn from the brands that are truly leading the way.
Last year, the launch of the inaugural International Retail Index tracked how retailers were investing in and adopting digital skills and services to reach global audiences.
With physical stores no longer needed to reach consumers around the world, the rise of ecommerce was allowing a whole new breed of flexible, digitally native players to grow globally at a rapid pace.
In the 12 months since, the pace of change and disruption impacting the retail sector has accelerated. Retailers facing tough trading conditions and saturation in their domestic markets are increasingly viewing international retail expansion as an opportunity that must be explored.
We are also seeing new technologies and ways of engaging with consumers that are sure to become more influential in the coming years. One of these, voice, has gained great traction over the past year, being installed at a growing number of people’s homes. Although its full potential has not yet been reached, some retailers are already experimenting and viewing it as a new way of building a relationship with consumers, in the same way that savvy retailers used social media to build global brands.
Speed and convenience of fulfilment is another area of rapid development. As consumer expectations for ever-shorter delivery times continues, leading retailers are already investing in offering same-day, next-day or two-day delivery – even for international orders. The next stage will be offering delivery to a range of non-conventional locations, such as in-home or in-car deliveries.
To reflect the changing landscape and priorities, Edge by Ascential (formerly PlanetRetail RNG) has incorporated new metrics and measures into this year’s index. The result is a ranking that demonstrates the need to constantly invest in capabilities for the future. Standing still is not an option.
One of the key driving forces behind the launch of the World Retail Congress was the rapid expansion of international retailing that was taking place in the late nineties and noughties. The BRIC economies (Brazil, Russia, India and China) proved highly attractive for persuading many retailers to begin crossing borders and building new networks and, in many respects, a new kind of retailing.
This extension of modern retailing into emerging markets, together with the migration of brands around the world, was symbolic of rising global prosperity and optimism.
Today, the world has changed dramatically and many of those pioneering international retailers have retrenched and withdrawn from countries in the face of economic challenges during the past 10 years.
Retailing is also undergoing enormous change as it embraces the digital revolution. And with it is coming a new wave of international growth by retailers. While the first wave was a very physical era, with strategies built around bricks-and-mortar store openings, today it is ecommerce and digital technologies that are opening up cross-border opportunities for retailers and brands in a way that has not been seen before.
This important International Retail Index report – produced again by Loqate in partnership with Retail Week and Edge by Ascential – not only underlines this new opportunity for retailers of all sectors and sizes, but also provides powerful insight into what makes for successful international strategies.
What links many of the retailers highlighted in the report is their clarity in placing consumers at the heart of everything they do and in ensuring that their online services deliver seamless, efficient and trusted interfaces.
It is a recognition that the digital world has placed power in the hands of the consumer, who is now willing and able to shop from whoever, whenever and wherever they are located in the world.