British brands are so hot right now, meaning the world is fertile territory for UK exporters. Here's how small businesses can take advantage through the medium of online.
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According to gov.uk, more than 340 million shoppers are purchasing British products online from overseas. Separate government figures highlight that overseas exporters have a 59% faster growth rate than retailers who do not offer overseas exports.
With online now accounting for 17.6% of all non-food sales (according to the BRC), shopping is now borderless, and retailers need to consider how they can capitalise on this in a way which will give them a local footprint in those international markets, and which is safe for their brand, as well as their revenue figures and profit targets.
"We are already in a strong position to begin responding to demand for our products"
But understanding the need for international expansion and realising this success are two different things. Here are four secrets to success which can help retailers on their journey to international success:
1. The UK is in a strong position for export
British brands are en vogue across the globe right now – no doubt spurred on by the recent royal arrival - giving our retailers a strong base for demand, and therefore a leg up in the international retail environment.
However, while consumer demand for our local brands is clearly important, it’s not the only reason the UK is in a strong position for export. As Damien Clothier, head of acquisition at matchesfashion.com pointed out in a recent panel session at Rakuten Marketing Symposium, the UK is growing serious talent with technological ability.
The British tech scene is currently booming, and students are learning coding, Java and Web development, which allows us to continue innovating within the UK, using home-grown talent.
In addition, Damien suggested that we underestimate the power of the postal system. We may regularly complain about it, but Damien reminded us of the strong network of postal options we have in the UK, allowing us to deliver goods and export items to other countries with ease.
This isn’t as common as you might expect in other countries; in fact, in some cases it is quicker for the UK to export to Australia than for an Australian company to ship from one side of the country to the other.
We are already in a strong position to begin responding to demand for our products, so retailers should be leveraging what we have in the UK - both in industry talent and the postal networks - and considering how they can build on this to begin expanding into global markets.
2. Different markets offer different opportunities
This may seem like a glaringly obvious statement, but many retailers still make the mistake of assuming that a product or marketing campaign that works in one market can be used as a blanket strategy. However, quite the opposite is true; even within Europe purchasing habits change, so when you extend this globally, there are significant differences across markets.
For example, James Maley, international marketing manager at Hilton Hotels Worldwide recently explained that some markets – especially in the APAC region – are showing much higher mobile adoption rates across the boards than any other market internationally.
With markets such as China (where people have had a 4G service for the longest period of time) retailers need to understand that consumers are using mobile in a very different way compared to elsewhere. As a result, for retailers expanding into China, a mobile-optimised website and designated mobile marketing campaign should be seen as imperative. Investing in a mobile payments solution can also boost sales, as it allows customers to discover and shop on the move.
There is also a significant difference across European markets when it comes to m-commerce. A recent study from RetailMeNot, highlighted the differences between the French and UK mobile commerce markets where 11% of purchases in the UK are made on mobile, compared with 6% in France. Whereas the UK are gaining speed using mobile as a purchase channel, consumers in France are much slower to do so.
Before moving into foreign markets, businesses need to do their research and understand the subtle nuances which can be easily adapted to, but which can make a huge difference. Mobile is gaining speed across the globe, but understanding what part it plays in the journey to purchase in each market is imperative.
3. China is still a strong growth market
Hilton’s success in the Chinese market is not an anomaly for British companies. ShopStyle, the online fashion search platform, currently sees China, Russia and the Netherlands as the three locales driving the most traffic to the site. However, of these, China is the biggest growth market, according to the Christina Maitland, Head of Commercial EU.
Why is this the case? Firstly, China is a huge market so even a small level of penetration in this international location can mean a big impact on the sales made online. In addition, Christina notes that on ShopStyle, Chinese consumers have a strong intent to buy when browsing UK retailers and their Average Order Value is high.
In China, annual economic growth of 7% represents a worrying slowdown.
This tells retailers that although moving into the foreign market can be viewed as a daunting prospect, UK retailers should be at least testing the appetite for their brand overseas. Those retailers beginning their foray to the East however, must not lose sight of maintaining brand personality and USP’s.
Consumers in the East are searching for UK brands because they appeal, so consider how you can localise the offering whilst maintaining your British brand personality.
4. Partnerships are paramount
International expansion does not have to be undergone alone. If it did, it would be an exceptionally daunting prospect and one which would be almost impossible to get right. However, as online has broken down walls between countries, businesses have been built as pillars to help us maintain standing as successful online businesses.
Strategic online marketing using partners such as affiliate networks can help brands to build their presence overseas and make informed decisions about marketing spend.
For example in the UK, brands need to stay on top of the Google algorithm to succeed in Search, but brands need to understand this is not the key player overseas. Damien highlighted other key players abroad during the panel session, such as Yandex, which is the top search engine in Russia.
Affiliate marketing allows foreign brands to partner with publishers that are trusted and viewed as destination shopping sites locally, meaning that the brand can start to build relationships with customers in those new markets. This also ensures brands are working with a publisher which echoes their tone and style.
You aren’t expected to know the nuances of publishers abroad, but partners can advise how the market works in terms of audiences and ensure that your message reaches your target shoppers.
When you begin international expansion as a pure-play business, you are physically removed from your customer. Do not underestimate the power of subtle nuances and insider tips that can help to bridge the geographical and cultural gap between you. Businesses will likely need to adapt their marketing somewhat to ensure local relevance.
The best way of doing this successfully and time sensitively is understanding the market you are investing in, leveraging the strong export position of the UK currently and building partnerships to connect with your desired audience, allowing you to realise the magnitude of the global marketplace.