Why digital networks should be at the heart of your international expansion plan

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With mounting Brexit uncertainty sapping retail investment at home and saturation in some areas of the UK hospitality sector, more and more British companies are looking across the Channel for lucrative expansion opportunities.

And aside from Kingfisher’s recent decision to withdraw from Russia, Spain and Portugal, there remains a strong thirst among retail and hospitality CEOs to spread their wings abroad. Among the most high-profile UK firms with active international expansion plans are Marks & Spencer with its expansion into China and Tesco’s Fresh & Easy chain venture in California.

Meanwhile fashion retailers such as JD Sports, Fat Face and Superdry, have moved into territories across Europe, North America, Asia and Australasia, while fast food chains Leon and Wagamama are eyeing sites in Europe and the US.

Wherever retailers or hospitality companies are expanding, the in-store digital network remains key to a successful overseas venture, helping to keep costs low and building great customer experiences.

Harness tech to help keep your costs low

Minimising cost is one of the key elements of success for international expansion, especially when businesses are just starting to implement a cross-border strategy.

The tactic here is to target markets that have comparatively lower currency rates and lower costs of living. This enables businesses to price products more competitively and secure greater profit margins. Technology can play a vital role in controlling cost, by increasing employee productivity, automating key back office tasks and keeping overall headcount low.

Self-service apps, kiosks and tills, for both the retail and hospitality sectors, help to achieve this goal keeping headcount low and freeing up staff to add real customer-facing value.

Bring your connectivity ‘A’ game

Believe it or not, customers in many overseas markets have even higher expectations around store connectivity than their UK counterparts.

For example, a recent survey by omnichannel solutions firm, Manhattan Associates revealed that shoppers in mainland Europe expect retail staff to be better connected and have more product info at their fingertips thanks to handheld devices. 58% of UK shoppers said this was the store associate’s primary role compared to a EU average of 68%. The country with the highest connectivity expectations was Spain with 79%.

The lesson here is firms need to research their target country thoroughly and may need to boost their network capabilities if they are to build customer experience and loyalty.

With all this attention placed on customer engagement, it’s important not to overlook the technological concerns of operating in a new territory. Every physical retail or hospitality venue needs a robust, reliable network on which to run their digital devices.

Growing companies need to consider whether their communications infrastructure is powerful enough to deliver adequate connection speeds, and which technologies should be applied to tackle communications over large distances.

Other things to think about include whether the territory demands specific security measures for the protection of sensitive data, and what backup facilities are available in the event of a disaster.

Put in-store digital connectivity first

Underpinning operations with a managed data network that’s every bit as robust and secure as its counterpart in the domestic market – if not more so – is extremely important.

When striking out into new territories, businesses should first consider the benefits of taking their network expertise with them rather than automatically looking to enlist the services of partners on the ground.

Why risk harming your brand reputation by offering poor connection speeds, or leaving the network open to security breaches? Retailers and hospitality companies opting for a trusted, flexible and supportive network partner can focus their attentions on the customer, safe in the knowledge that their business is running on the best infrastructure available.

Replicating an existing network overseas can bring an entire global estate within easy reach of its head office. Why risk your digital strategy at this crucial time in your growth?

Vodat International specialises in managed data networks for the retail and hospitality industries. Get in touch with Vodat to find out how we can assist your global expansion plans.