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Retail across borders: 6 considerations for international expansion

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At Retail's BIG Show this January, I spoke about a number of the most prevalent themes in the evolving world of retail today including globalization. Many retailers are looking to grow their businesses by expanding their borders, both with physical brick and mortar stores and with e-commerce operations. While that presents incredible opportunity, it also creates strategic and operational hurdles for organizations of all sizes.

What lessons can be learned from European retailers or those that have expanded internationally already? Specifically, retailers should consider six principal issues (or opportunities) related to international expansion.

  • Operations and organizational structure. As retailers expand across borders, what does the structure of the organization look like across business units and teams? What type of local, regional teams and support are necessary and how do they integrate and compliment the structure at corporate headquarters?
  • Product assortment and branding. Retailers are working to determine what product assortment to offer in different countries. Additionally, we know that brands that truly want to have a global reach must balance how they develop and translate their brand for new, local markets.
  • Regulations. Going global means paying  attention to different rules and regulations within every country, region and city where they operate (or hope to operate.)  From privacy rules to laws around labor, tax and trademarks, every country in the world operates differently.
  • Currency and payments. Varying payment methods need to be considered. How do you manage the currency types and exchange rates around the world? As mobile adoption continues to increase and mobile technology continues to advance, retailers must be ready for groundbreaking changes in how we pay for goods and merchandise worldwide.
  • Shipping and fulfillment. Retailers are struggling with how to best tackle shipping and fulfillment in markets with varying standards and regulations on things including shipping and returns. For global growth, retailers must determine best practices for each channel to enable seamless geographical growth.
  • Marketing and social engagement. Retailers understand that one-size-fits-all marketing and communications strategies do not work. All companies, regardless of their maturity in global expansion continue to struggle because of the change within their own organization and the changing face of the socially empowered and always-connected, mobile consumer.

These are just a few of the many issues, questions and considerations out there related to globalization of a retail brand. What we do know is that there are a limited number of companies that understand the key to translating a retail brand to new markets across the world. Most importantly, we understand that a retailer’s international strategy is heavily dependent on operations, technology and marketing partners and systems to prosper in a fierce and changing global marketplace.

To compliment all of the discussions and research we have about global branding, technology and marketing at all of our NRF and events, this week NRF will be hosting a pavilion at Europe's fastest growing retail event, Retail Business Technology Expo (RBTE) on March 13-14 in London. NRF's Pavilion will feature thought-leadership and technological innovation from two NRF communities: Both ARTS Executive Director Richard Mader and Artemis Berry, Senior Director of Content and Community at will be featured speakers on the educational program at RBTE, presenting on the NRF Social Blueprint, a guide for social media strategies in Retail, and Omnichannel Retail: Socializing, Localizing and Mobilizing, respectively.

In addition to meeting with members of the NRF, ARTS and teams, our Pavilion will feature technology innovators and integrators from our generous Pavilion sponsors, including ADC, Bizerba, NCR, PCMS and Starmount. These partners will join us to help share their technology expertise on for global retailers looking to optimize their mobile, social and local technologies.

Our NRF communities are proud to bring some of our own insights and expertise to the RBTE event. We’re also proud to be representing our global retail membership at this great industry event. And most importantly, we are proud to be a voice and key partner to retailers all over the world as they invest their time and resources into growing their businesses in the U.S. and the evolutionary and immense global marketplace.