US brand Michael Kors has employed a fully localised strategy in Canada, aiming to succeed whether other US brands and retailers struggled.
Damon Sloane, general manager for ecommerce at Michael Kors Canada, told delegates at the Drapers Digital Festival in London today: “There is quite a big difference between the Canadian and US ecommerce markets.
“Canada is the eighth-largest ecommerce market in the world by revenue. [It is] behind China, the US and UK, but it is seen as attractive because it is the closest neighbour to the US, and has seen steady growth in its ecommerce sales over the past few years.”
Michael Kors launched in Canada at similar time to US retailer Target, which pulled the plug on its Canadian operations in 2015, less than two years after opening.
Sloane drew comparisons with US premium brand rivals Coach and Kate Spade, and said some details on their websites signalled to consumers that they were not fully localised in their approaches.
There is quite a big difference between the Canadaian and US ecommerce markets.
Coach flags that was duty-free shipping and a $15 flat rate shipping to Canada (flagging that the firm was not “in” Canada), while Kate Spade offers $10USD standard shipping, meaning that it is not translated into local currency.
Michael Kors, meanwhile, has a .ca website rather than a .com website, has a Canadian flag and is available in both English and French.
“For the French-speaking province of Quebec, the government will actively block users from using websites if they don’t offer French language sites, even if 80%-90% of users in that area actually opt for the English site,” said Sloane.
“So if you don’t offer a French translation, then 20%-30% of the Canadian market can’t access your site.”
Even though it has a distribution centre just a few hours away in New York, Michael Kors also built one in Canada, which means it can ship within the country.
“US brands want to ship with Fedex or UPS but we can ship with Canada Post, which means we can access 1,600 of their locations across the country.”
Michael Kors can also ship directly to customers from stores: “In Canada, there is a relatively small population, which is spread out. We can reach people in two days, whereas the Canadian consumer expects to receive a parcel in five to seven days.”
He added the company also took a localised approach in its marketing and social media, using influencers and local blogs to fully engage a local audience.
“I think personalisation is a mindset that permeates beyond digital to every part of the consumer journey,” he said.