When we think about global marketplaces so many reference points come up, from manufacturing in India, to sourcing leather in Argentina, to selling at a boutique in Japan. Yet, beyond leveraging the resources provided to us internationally, it’s rare to see brands focus on international launches either via ecommerce or wholesale. This is mostly due to two factors: 1- logistical issues 2- fear of the unknown.
However, in today’s market we are able to move through these barriers to create sustainable and thriving businesses. This 4 part series on Going Global will walk you through the steps to prepare your brand for international expansion. Together we will explore channels that you may have never considered and I will offer innovative ideas to help you grow strategically and with cost efficiency.
Growing Your Brand in Partner Countries
With talk of the TPP lately its easy to get worried about what it might mean for the future of the US economy, but it’s also important to think about how it could potentially be leveraged to grow your brand in partner countries. Ecommerce transactions will become much easier for US brands in countries like Australia and Japan. The fluidity between borders will continue to increase and your capacity to leverage this will be critical to your business success.
This series breaks down into: (1) Choosing Your Next Market (2) Setting Up Your Business Model for Global Success (3) Penetrating the Market (4) Thriving in a Global Market.
To lay the foundation, let’s first consider the #1 country in the world for online sales: China. China generated over $420 Billion in ecommerce sales last year, and by 2018 the sales are expected to double that of the USA.
Following China, the USA ecommerce market is valued at $305B.
Then we head into a steep decline with the UK coming in at $80B, and the rest of the list: Japan, Germany, France, Canada, Russia and Brazil.
So does this mean you should open up distribution to the entire top 10 list? Not so fast. There are many markets that could be specifically geared towards your brand that do not fit the mold. You will need to determine your wholesale fit and digital fit for a market. In most cases they will be the same.
Example: A beach/resort brand would target vacation hot spots around the world; a yoga brand could target hotels/gyms/startup communities internationally. It’s important to start with looking at natural fits for where your product could be, not where you want it to be. Too often I hear people give a wish list of where they would love to be, but the market is too saturated.
How to Determine Your First International Touch Point
Develop your wholesale and digital archetype– This is your current target customer that we are looking for an international fit. The archetype will determine where you will spend marketing dollars, set up potential distribution centers, and build on-the-ground collaborators.
Start reading international blogs and researching your competitor brands.- Create an exhaustive list of the influencers internationally who fit your aesthetic. You would be surprised how many fashion insiders, blogs, and influencers exist outside of the USA.
Start investigating infrastructure.- What are the costs associated with shipping? Are there other brands currently selling there? One of my clients opened up a Gilt Groupe type platform in the Philippines and the number one barrier that we had to overcome was how to make sure packages actually arrived. You really have to look at everything. Maybe there are distribution centers that make it easy to set up shop.
Evaluate both your ecommerce and wholesale options.- Are there boutiques or department stores that would be a good fit for your product? Wholesale is just another media outlet to get your product in front of potential brand loyalists. How would your pricing translate to local prices? Would you still be competitive? Could you create enough awareness to manufacture demand at your price?
Evaluate your product: size, fit, and fabric.- What type of markets would actually be able to wear your products during the right season? Remember that in South America it’s the winter when it’s the summer in North America. How about the size differences between the Japanese market and the USA- could your products be resized?
The Results of Your Research
You should be able to narrow down where to begin your market penetration once you have answered the questions above. I know, I wish it were easier, but opening up shipping and catering to an international market is just not as easy as saying yes on your Shopify account.
It’s not worth it to execute on an idea poorly, otherwise why bother. Once you take the time to determine your next ideal target market, you’ll be ready to read the next article on How to Set Up Your Business Model for International Success, coming soon.