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Data, partnerships, and flexibility – the keys to selling direct to consumers globally

01 February 2023

Picking the right option for engagement is an important element in your global expansion strategy, and that depends a great deal on understanding the market in each territory, says Martim Avillez Oliveira, Chief Executive Officer of ESW – Europe and UK, and tailoring your response according to your strengths.

The global economy is in a volatile state as a result of a unique set of factors - the highest inflation in a generation, rising geopolitical tensions, climate crises and sinking consumer confidence in anticipation of an economic downturn. Brands will therefore have to plan carefully if they are to navigate the many uncertainties and recessionary risks that lie ahead in 2023.

Planning starts with deep data analysis to reveal the opportunities. As a result, brands may well have to re-evaluate their regional growth priorities and then tailor their strategies to both the geographies in which they operate as well as those they plan to go after.

Data analysis will also help brands meet the needs of consumers whose spending behaviours have changed with increasing demand for resale, rental and off-price goods. Brand executives will need to adapt their current business models in ways that protect customer loyalty and avoid diluting their brands.

In the face of these challenges, retailers will need to consider the best form of engagement in each territory, ranging from a hands-off approach afforded by licensing to greater control provided by the owner/operator model.

The experience of US brand, and ESW partner, American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) provides useful lessons on which direction is right for you, as Valerie de Charette, American Eagle's vice president of international digital set out at NRF in New York in January.

American Eagle

Valerie de Charette, American Eagle's vice president of international digital

AEO recognised the value of selling direct to consumer (DTC) across geographical borders and made the decision to be present wherever the customer is, whether through physical or online channels by creating a model of expansion appropriate to each territory. During this session, AEO shared its keys to a successful global expansion strategy - first, ensure a synchronised and unified brand voice through playbooks and global processes that serve each business function.  Second, have a solid team structure in place so that all partners globally have functional points of contact and single points of contact for each region; and most importantly, build flexibility in general strategy, product design, pricing, assortment, and channel strategy.

That flexibility sees AEO leverage its US platform in some markets and in others, end-to-end partners that are composable and flexible.  Working with ESW, AEO built a hyper-localised commerce experience to deliver an online experience that met the brand promise to their shoppers. The solution included full-site builds for multiple countries featuring localised pricing and promotions, market-specific content and languages, optimised payments and local acquiring, country targeted online marketing, logistics management and advanced returns and exchanges.

This approach allows AEO to give the customer in each country exactly what they want. It takes care to show up where the customer expects them to be and that includes, more recently, social shopping channels.


American Eagle Outfitters

In terms of the human resources on the ground in each territory, AEO looks for people that understand that the company’s brand values are rooted in being authentic, being real and ensuring customers feel comfortable to be themselves in their clothes. This demands quality training to carry out the brand's values no matter where the expansion takes place.

Ultimately, it is critical to avoid copying and pasting a plan, playbook or strategy from one market to another. It's better to enter each new market with the inbuilt flexibility to respond to a constant stream of new and different ideas – giving customers an opportunity to immerse themselves into the brand world, wherever they may be, while enjoying a fully localised commerce experience.


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Read more from ESW here.

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