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Comment: CJ Retail Solutions on the in-store challenges for international brands

 

For UK retailers and brands, keeping standards of in-store campaign activation consistent and maintaining compliance can be a difficult task, let alone trying to do so across international borders.

Coordinating retail activations thousands of miles apart is no mean feat. Aside from the simple matter of scale, cross-border campaigns can throw up a seemingly endless list of hurdles – managing deployment teams within local markets, overcoming differing knowledge and competency levels, as well as the more obvious physical language barrier.
 

With UK retail more competitive than ever, many major UK retailers and brands are no doubt eyeing possible international opportunities – particularly in mainland Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Yet whilst the EMEA region offers potentially great rewards, it can also be hazardous for brands looking to execute retail activations overseas. With so many UK retailers operating agreements with franchise partners, the opportunities for poor retail implementation to damage a brand are greatly increased.

 

For all the talk that’s focused on the power of ‘mobile’ when it comes to in-store, as far as delivering international brand success is concerned, it’s important to remember that shoppers are just that – mobile. Many overseas shoppers will have already experienced a retailer or brand in the UK, whether they have travelled to our shores for business or pleasure. As a result, despite the market potentially being new for the brand, there may already be an expectation formed about what the brand’s retail experience should look and feel like.

 

Most EMEA countries also attract thousands of tourists and expats too. Therefore it’s vital to achieve best practice and consistent in-store activation in order to deliver a shopping experience that matches up with what they are used to back home, otherwise a poorly installed or faulty display in Dubai could end up in a lost sale on the streets of Manchester.


When rolling out in-store campaigns overseas or launching in a new market, brands must invest wisely and give great thought to how they will deliver a store experience that is in keeping with existing retail activation standards. Many retail activities across the EMEA region are controlled centrally right here in the UK, meaning marketers have to rely on the fragmented and often disparate support of implementation providers in local markets.
 

As a result, it can take considerable energy and resources to consistently deliver the kind of standards that marketers want to achieve. Striking a balance between local delivery and what is recognised by many outside the UK as best practice is one of the biggest challenges for the future.


Many of the brands and stores operating overseas are controlled via third party franchisees and dealership arrangements. These insist on having strict contractual requirements in place with local partners to invest substantially in the ‘hard’ elements of creating the brand experience, such as store design. But it is often the ‘softer’ elements, for example the implementation and ongoing compliance of display refreshes and message change-overs, where all important brand equity begins to suffer.


We have recently expanded our reach, offering retail brands the opportunity to achieve the same standards of display implementation and compliance they enjoy here in the local UK market – internationally.


Perhaps, now is the time to redouble efforts to create the culture for expert retail activation across international store portfolios. Finding more effective ways to achieve consistent yet tailored standards of retail implementation will surely be the essential starting point on the journey to delivering the world-class retail standards that modern cross-border in-store campaigns demand.