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Retail activations in the EMEA region? Avoid brand travel sickness

 

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.

As anyone who has attempted it will know; coordinating retail activations thousands of miles apart with effectively and efficiently 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.

Yet the number of homegrown brands and stores that are flying the flag overseas is growing, fast. River Island is making headway in Australia, whilst Marks & Spencer and Debenhams – both beacons of Middle England – remain in favour in the Middle East, and Tesco’s F&F continues to plough on through Eastern Europe. And with UK retail more competitive than ever, many more 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. Brand equity is everything in today’s global retail market, and retailers setting sail with their brands need to really sharpen up their game.

Consider this: For all the talk that’s focused on the power ‘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 familiarity with the brand, with an expectation formed amongst shoppers about what the brand’s retail experience should look and feel like.

Conversely, it is not just locals in other markets that marketers will be asked to buy into their latest campaigns. Most EMEA countries also attract thousands of tourists and expats too. Many of these ‘visitors’ – whether they travelling for business or pleasure – will see the latest campaign from their favourite brands and stores. Therefore, there’s a real importance to achieving 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 Deansgate.

Whether a brand is pondering a possible push into new regions such as EMEA, or making preparations to successfully deploy their latest retail campaign beyond the UK’s shores, it’s vitally important to ensure that everything implemented in-store confirms to shoppers that they are in the right place to ‘experience’ the brand as they would in the UK, albeit in a different location. When rolling out in-store campaigns overseas or launching in a new market, this means that 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.
 

But even if you already happen to be a global brand, often it’s still not easy – many retail activities across EMEA region are controlled centrally right here in the UK, meaning that 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. Indeed, striking a balance between local delivery and what is recognised by many outside of the UK as best practice standards of compliance is one of the biggest challenges for the future.

Whilst many of the brands and stores operating overseas are controlled via third party franchisees and dealership arrangements, that 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, it is often the ‘softer’ elements, such as the implementation and ongoing compliance of display refreshes and message change-overs, where all important brand equity begins to suffer overseas. This often results in brand experiences that look promising but on many occasions actually fail to deliver the ‘promise’, and in so doing disappoint shoppers.

So where does that leave brands?

Never one to stand still, CJ Retail Solutions has now expanded its reach, offering retail brands the opportunity to achieve the same best practice standards of display implementation and compliance they enjoy here in the local UK market – internationally. All thanks to our ongoing commitment to invest in building a comprehensive network of installation specialists in local markets throughout the EMEA region. Led by a local CJ Retail Solutions project delivery team on the ground, our team EMEA activation specialists are managed and trained to deliver the same high standards of implementation that our clients have come to expect from CJ Retail Solutions. It stands to reason that, having seen our formula work in the UK, those marketers keen to improve international retail standards will be quick to cotton.

Over the last twelve months, several leading retailers have made good headway in their quest to improve implementation standards and processes in the UK. Perhaps, now is the time to redouble efforts to create the culture for expert retail activation across their international store portfolio too. Dare we say it: some retailers and brands should be more demanding of themselves for higher standards of implementation in these markets. After all, finding more effective ways to achieve the kind of 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.