In an ideal world, if you had a crystal ball, you would be able to create the perfect product, for any individual, in every global market while retaining your brand’s authenticity and making no compromises to your brand style. The line would be perfectly tailored to fit their specific tastes and buying patterns. Unfortunately there is no crystal ball. The reality of actually executing on that level of uniqueness is almost impossible. So should you create one global line that caters to everyone but speaks to no one? Of course not. The challenge for brands today is to balance leading their consumers in a culturally sensitive way that resonates with a given demographic.
One of the most magical things about the retail industry is that brands have the ability to bring people together from different places and cultures and unify them through self-expression. The distance, literally and figuratively, between people who are crafting the brand and the people they are serving is shrinking. Brands can now efficiently and effectively connect with consumers on a deeper cultural level. If brands don’t have access to learn from those people, then you’re just guessing as to what will resonate with them most.
The appeal of selling internationally is that you have a consumer base today that, as opposed to a decade or two ago, has so much more access to information, much more purchasing power, and evolving tastes. These shifts together make opportunities to offer localized product assortments that resonate with individual markets. It also creates operational challenges. You’re no longer just producing a global assortment with the hopes that if it sells well in the US – it will likely sell well everywhere. As operational complexity goes up, so does the difficulty of keeping your teams coordinated, including how you research and understand your consumer, and the stress you put on your various supply chain layers to be able to deliver against the plan. As a result, it can be difficult for brands in the moment to understand the nuances between different cultures.
Every big market represents their own blend of cultures that each require their own approaches. China in particular is a fascinating challenge for many brands today. China has been a growth driver for many global brands. As China becomes a material part of a business’s profit and loss, and an upward trend that they are pinning their future hopes on, it becomes critically important to fully understand the Chinese consumer. It’s no longer good enough to take the product that has sold well in other geographies and just hope it will do equally well in a market like China. The Chinese consumer themselves are becoming much more aware of global brands. They have developed their own unique tastes and interests. If your brand isn’t attuned to that shift you can be left behind in the biggest growth market there is.
In today’s global economy where consumers are super empowered to be influenced by sources that are market unique, that uniformity of appeal doesn’t exist. Creating assortments that speak to markets, but also have a common thread of representing the brand identity, while being able to be serviced at scale is the goal for modern businesses. Finding that sweet spot is what every brand is trying to do.