With cross-border sales more important than ever, knowing how to strategically enter the Australian market is critical, writes Andrew Myers. 

Geographic distance from U.S. and European retailers used to force Australian shoppers to settle for online shopping. Now, as more retailers make the move down under, Australia is seeing an influx of bricks-and-mortar stores, like Sephora and H&M, that were previously only accessible online. With a GDP purchasing power of over 1.2 trillion US dollars, it is no wonder that global retailers are continuing to set up shop in Australia.

However, opening bricks-and-mortar stores in new countries thousands of miles away from their headquarters requires a change in strategy. The move presents retailers with a host of new challenges, especially when it comes to hiring, training, and retaining a frontline workforce.

Here are some tips for global retailers hoping to open bricks-and-mortar stores in Australia and bring out the best in their new in-store associates:

  • Train associates as consultants: As we enter into an age of retailer transparency, consumers expect a new type of retail associate who can do more than make sales. Associates should understand how the products are made, what sets them apart from the competition and why the consumer should purchase. Training an engaging staff can be challenging, but it is also an opportunity to provide a rich shopping experience and boost overall brand reputation.
  • Embrace an ongoing training process: In a traditional retail associate position, new employees receive a few hours of classroom-style training before working on the floor. After a long wait by loyal Australian shoppers, these brands need to deliver an experience, which requires a new approach to training. For tech brands like Apple — which opened its first store in Australia seven years after setting up in the U.S. and Europe — the products are constantly changing, and associates need to keep pace. Keeping associates informed of product updates requires continuous training delivered in interactive, accessible ways, like videos and quizzes.
  • Adapt to the next generation: As more Gen Zs (born after 1999) fill entry-level jobs, it is becoming apparent that their needs are different than other generations. They are defined by their love of technology and crave stability in the workplace. They want to connect with their employers the same way they connect with their friends — through interactive apps and digital messaging. For traditional retailers, it can take weeks for new initiatives to move from leadership down to hourly, frontline employees. Establishing digital communication channels can cut that time drastically. For hourly workers, stability means flexibility. Allowing Gen Zs to pick up more hours as needed and have more flexibility when it comes to scheduling will keep them around longer. Implementing a centralized shift-scheduling tool within a digital workplace platform allows associates to voluntarily sign up for and trade shifts.
  • Think omni-channel: Opening bricks-and-mortar stores on a new continent is much more than simply building a physical location where consumers can buy products — it’s about defining an experience. For many retailers who previously offered an e-commerce-only experience to Australians, a physical store can act as a showroom for potential buyers hesitant to commit online. Giving customers an opportunity to experience products in-store will help drive buyer confidence and brand loyalty. Physical locations can also serve as distribution centers and return centers, allowing e-commerce channels to grow as well. By opening a physical store, brands offer Australian consumers more ways to shop.

Despite the challenges of opening a bricks-and-mortar store on a new continent, many brands are eager to grow their reach and increase brand loyalty. With the help of the right digital workplace tool, retailers can seamlessly employ innovative workforce management practices as they set themselves up for exponential Australian growth.

By Andrew Myers, Vice President of Asia Pacific (APAC) and Global Digital Strategy, WorkJam