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Global Fashion Group's top tips for international expansion

Global Fashion Group’s international buying director, Melanie Smallwood, shared her experience of how to successfully navigate overseas expansion at Drapers Digital Festival today. 

“Prioritise local payment”

Localised payment is really important. We have 35 payment methodologies across our 17 markets, including paying cash on delivery in Russia and an after-pay service in Australia. Nothing is worse than shopping on a fashion retailer’s ecommerce site and trying to work out what it costs in local currency.

Customers are very savvy when it comes to what is the actual price when it comes to taxes and import costs.

“Have an on-the-ground presence”

We’ve tailored each of our individual countries to the local consumers. We have marketing and buying teams based locally, so we have a very close connection to what the consumer is wanting. Being on the ground and understanding the consumer first hand is crucial. 

All of our content is very community focused, rather than having a dictatorial editorial focus on how we speak to consumers. For example, we do a lot of testing around product imagery and found that in south-east Asia men didn’t respond well to full-body product shots.

You don’t have to establish a full local present but just having some people on the ground, working with partners, is ultimately going to lead you to success.

“Be realistic with your scale”

Be considered about your capability, and what your capital expenditure requirements and marketing spend requirements are. Think strategically about what countries you want to enter and when. 

We don’t operate in markets where there is already a leading business. If we were trying to compete in China, the US or Europe we are simply too far behind well-established players. 

Don’t try to do everything at once – it’s about short bursts into key markets.

“Build your own infrastructure”

The most important learning is one size does not fit all. The biggest challenges with international retailers is that companies assume that the same approach and logic applies that they model in the UK. Having a localised approach is fundamental to success. 

A lot of our learning has been around local infrastructures and building that to support an ecommerce business. In Russia we learnt quickly that they their third-party logistics partners were not fit for purpose, so we built our own delivery fleet.


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