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International expansion requires adaptability

Retailers need to be aware of shopping habits and expectations in different countries when expanding internationally. 

A group of European marketplace companies – Spartoo (Spain), Privalia (Spain and, soon, Italy) and La Redoute (France) – all spoke on a panel at the Fashion Without Borders event in London this week, where they detailed nuances country-by-country. 

Aymeric Moser, marketing director at Spartoo, explained how Spanish shoppers still prefer cash on delivery, while German and Nordic consumers like to pay via invoice over a 30 day-period. 

“We opened all the major payments systems which is a key point for conversion rate,” explained Moser. “And we try to adapt the website to the market, so my customer thinks he’s on Spanish website, not a French website which has decided to open in Spain.”

Carlos Cantoni, head of account management, La Redoute – which has 99% brand awareness in France – said the marketplace’s goal is to deliver goods on the same day. “If we do it in 24 hours, that’s really nice, but in Northern France we should be able to do it in the same day.”

Cantoni also said La Redoute needs to work on expanding its warehouse locations to speed up fulfilment. But he noted that France is a great advocate of Click & Collect and pick up from store, which represents 87% of La Redoute’s orders. 

On the other hand, discount marketplace retailer, Privalia, is not under quite the same amount of fulfilment pressure.

“We are trying to get the goods to our customers faster and faster – Amazon is leading the way and we all need to follow,” said Aleksandra Olszewska, Privalia’s marketplace operations manager. “But our [discount] customers are able to wait a little longer.”

While traditionally Privalia customers would wait ten days for their orders, Olszewska said the retailer is trying to speed that up to a maximum of five. “But five days is still an upgrade from what Spanish and Italian customers have been used to.”

She said Spanish and Italian customers also have a low return rate of 7%. “I don’t know if it’s because they’re Latin countries, but customers there would sooner give their unwanted items to friends or sell them somewhere else.”

Marketplaces can also play to the advantage of changes in seasonality across the globe. Speaking in a later session at the Fashion Without Borders conference, Conrad Bain, global development manager, of New Zealand’s Trade Me marketplace, explained opposite season to the northern hemisphere combined with 36% of New Zealand’s online shopping happening offshore, presents a good opportunity for foreign retailers interested in moving into the region. He also said Trade Me’s return rate is a mere 0.75%.  

Meanwhile, in countries like Russia and the Ukraine, their winters can last as long as six months, which means there is a greater demand for products like Ugg boots. 

Vladmir Samarov, director, international department at Russia’s Ozon marketplace, said despite popular belief that citizens are unhealthy and drink all the time, Russians are actually very much into fitness, with products like Adidas and Rebook being very popular, as is Under Armour, although the latter is difficult to come by in the region. 

But some economical variations from country to country are about to change. While the trend at the moment is for retailers to adapt prices depending on the availability of the product in the market and competition, Olszewska said retailers who offer products at different price points in different countries will not be able to do so for much longer. 

“Everything is going global through Amazon and all the different marketplaces, and especially in Europe, there is an open space where goods flow with no frontiers or taxes.”

One way this will be made easier in the near future is thanks to the Digital Single Market legislation which is currently being pushed through the European Parliament. The legislation aims to create a set of standards for trading goods online across Europe, estimating it will add £375 billion per year to the EU economy.