In my recent roles I have found myself engrained in making organisations international. Now, I say international deliberately and not global as i firmly believe internationalisation is very different from globalisation. International in my head means expanding to some overseas territories picked for strategic and commercial reasons. Globalisation is changing your business models, culture and processes to become truly global and as such your business can operate in any country, utilising all of the existing processes and investments you have already made.
Anyway, enough of my views on the difference between the two nuances, I have managed to make two brands achieve success in the US, with boohoo and SimplyBe. Whilst this is not unique it is unusual, as there are more failed UK brands going to US than successes.
In a follow up post I will explore some of the specifics that I think we have made to help brands successful, but in this first post, I will apply some of the aspects already out there from huge success story Pret.
- Don’t change essential parts of your model
- US customers insist on customisation
- US customers like variety
- Don’t underestimate seasonal influence
- Bigger is often better
1. Don’t change essential parts of your model
One of they reasons for expanding internationally (aside from more people to target) is to maximise the investment in current assets. If you can keep the majority of your model in tact then you can leverage your existing investment and create operational efficiencies. A sound reason.
However not only do you create operational efficiencies, the essential parts of your model also help define who you are as a business and depending on the element, even who you are as a brand. For this reason it is critical to understand the core elements of your business, brand and model and keep them as intrinsic part of your overseas presence.
For example at SimplyBe, the core of the brand is to produce fashion that fits and flatters for a curvy girl. The core age of the customer was 25-35. Whilst we produced bespoke creative and tweaked the way we approached the customer given the market and cultural differences between the US and UK customer in that target, the core of the brand was retained.
2. US Customer Insist on Customisation
Americans are a proud bunch of people and not only like things are their terms but are pretty vocal and stubborn if they don’t receive it. The Pret example showed that they had to offer self-serve points for hot drinks and salad dressings. It is no different for fashion. Obviously if you have designed for a global customer from the outset and mirroring trends or fashion from the global shows this is less pronounced. However, as we did at SimplyBe, sometimes you know there are gaps in your product offer and as per the previous point you don’t want to make wholesale changes to your range, however you can add components that are right for the audience. With the traditntal SimplyBe range the product was quite stable and as the US landscape is much more competitive and diverse, we identified the likes of Athleisure and cropped garments were missing.
This is not unique to SImplyBe. Brands often use collaborations to help resonate with a local audience and adapt ranges to suit audiences. However, other brands such as some within the Pentland Group assign a proportion of their overall product strategy to be allocated for local markets. Several success stories also have local design resource to understand, on the ground, what is happening.
3. US Customers Like Variety
US customers like and demand variety. The Pret example is classic evidence of this in action. When they moved soup size choices down from two to one, it was a disaster. They moved back to two (and in some regions six) and the sales responded accordingly. The fact they developed further product options also shows how important variety is.
This, I believe is one of the reasons, boohoo has been successful in the US. After all, there is so much choice in terms of style and so much choice in options on the same products. This has helped the average basket size climb and also the value per order.
4. Don’t Underestimate Seasonal Influence
Now the example given in the Pret article explains perfectly why seasonality is so important in food. However, this is true for other sectors in the US as well. Obviously, the seasonality issue is far different in different areas of the US. Winter in Minneapolis is very different to winter in Miami. This is something UK brands need to remember. Yes Inverness is different to Bournemouth but the contrast isn’t as great. If you can accurately reflect seasonality particularly winter on the site experience, you have something that sets you apart.
5. Bigger is Often Better
In the final example given in the Pret piece, it says Americans expect space. This is the one point I believe is different per sector. Retail in the US is very spread on this issue, with Mall culture very important in some areas, however, smaller boutiques are as important in Manhattan.
Whatever you think, Pret is a massive success story and whilst all of the points may not be right for every business, they are good reflection points for anybody looking to expand in to the US.
The whole basis of this article is to demonstrate how the US needs attention and in some circumstances needs tailoring. With this in mind, from my personal definition of globalisation vs internationalisation, international feels right.
The original article on Pret can be found here
Love to know what you think. What your views are. Let me know by commenting on here or by reaching out on Twitter