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Much of the discussion around the National Retail Federation’s annual BIG show in New York this week has revolved around larger trends in shopping: the growth of mobile, social and local, and the importance of using big data to create personalization for trusting customers. But the conference, which is a true global affair, has also been an opportune time to bring together retailers from all over the world, as new technologies and digital capabilities have made it easier than ever for companies to start thinking of international expansion.

Two such companies explained their thought processes for expansion in Tuesday’s mid-morning session “Beyond Borders: Retail Lessons in Global Expansion.” James Fielding, the chief executive of Claire’s Stores, and Zita Cassizzi, the chief digital officer of TOMS Shoes (a Magento client) discussed how their respective businesses decided to enter new markets.

Claire’s Stores
Fielding, who frequently mentioned the importance of global + local, ticked through a list of internal and external factors that companies need to answer to help them decide whether or not to expand. His internal questions included:

  • What are your company’s growth objectives?
  • Is your home market doing well?
  • Do you have the management bandwidth?

External questions included:

  • Is there regional consumer interest in your brand?
  • Is your target market growing at a fast enough level?
  • Do you have an adaptable business model?

Fielding also shared his learnings after 20 years on the job at Claire’s, namely that retailers—when deciding about expanding—need to:

  1. Do the research
  2. Think "glocal" (global and local)
  3. Acquire brand expertise with brand experts
  4. Stay flexible and nimble
  5. Pick the right partners
  6. Think digital and physical
  7. Expect the unexpected

“Global expansion is a great opportunity but it comes at a great price,” said Fielding. “Be prepared to work hard.”

TOMS
After TOMS decided to expand internationally, Cassizzi says the company tried to pick its first new locations based on the ease of entry, the market size, the country’s affinity for the TOMS brand, as well as the social engagement of the population, given how active the brand is on social networks. The business also considered the customer, “of course,” said Cassizzi with a laugh.

The expansion has been a success, notes Cassizzi, who is more than happy to share her five key takeaways from the experience:

  1. It’s all about the customer, customer, customer
  2. Determining a larger holistic strategy
  3. Test > Measure > Learn > Refine (and Repeat)
  4. Communicate what your business is doing
  5. At the end of the day, it’s still all about your people

Do you have any useful tips for expanding into new markets? Reach out to us via @Magento using #NRF14 to continue the conversation, or follow us on Facebook. For those at the event, be sure to stop by the eBay Inc. booth (4245) to check out the awesome Connected Glass, Digital Storefront experience featuring Rebecca Minkoff and TOMS.





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