The UK has become the largest export economy for e-commerce in the world, with 340m shoppers coming from the US and other European countries according to Gov.uk. In addition, government figures highlight that overseas exporters have a 59% faster growth rate than retailers who do not export overseas.
Data from digital marketing company Rakuten Marketing shows that more than half of the traffic to its UK network of retailers is from outside the UK, and 15% of its ecommerce sales come from international markets.
As UK retail gains speed globally, Rakuten Marketing brought four leading international companies together to discuss the secrets to international success at its annual Symposium event in London last month.
Nick Fletcher, Director of Service Strategy, Rakuten Marketing
Simon Bird (SB), General Manager International, Savoo
James Maley (JM), International Marketing Manager, Hilton Hotels Worldwide
Damien Clothier (DC), Head of Acquisition, MATCHESFASHION.COM
Christina Maitland (CM), Head of Commercial EU, Shopstyle
Q. Which market excites you the most and why?
JM: Each international market presents a unique challenge and opportunity but the markets that excite me the most are the APAC regions. People here are the quickest mobile adopters and they are more willing to purchase using a mobile phone. Countries like China have had a 4G service for the longest period of time, and they are used to turning to this channel to purchase, which presents an exciting challenge and opportunity for retailers in this market. In addition, Africa sees huge mobile adoption and they use mobile in a very different way from the rest of the world.
Q. Are other retailers seeing the same thing in these markets?
CM: At ShopStyle, China, Russia and the Netherlands are the three locales driving us the most traffic outside of our localised site markets. Of those, we see China as the biggest opportunity for us. It’s a huge market, so a small level of penetration can make a big impact. In addition, we’ve found that Chinese visitors have strong conversion and high AOV – they know what they want and they have a strong intent to buy.
Q. The Chinese market is historically difficult to get right, which companies are getting China and more broadly, global, strategy right?
CM: Farfetch is a company we have been impressed with. They have managed to maintain their editorial voice and USP as a global brand while tailoring their in-market offering through localisation and on-the-ground resources.
Q. Can you share any unusual experiences for companies from your own experience of setting up business abroad?
SB: The success Savoo had in Brazil was a real surprise to us. When we started our international strategy a few years ago, we had ‘knowns’ and ‘unknowns’ in terms of countries. Brazil was an unknown and we were not expecting the level of uptake we have seen. In Brazil, there is a real ‘coupon culture’ which has taken off, so we’ve seen a great level of success there.
Q. The UK is very good at exporting, what do you think it is about UK businesses that makes them so successful?
DC: We are lucky that Britishness is very much en vogue within a lot of other countries at the moment. In addition, two other areas that are less exciting but fundamental in UK business success are:
1) The postal system. The network of postal options we have in the UK means we are able to export items to other countries very quickly, which is less common in other countries; in some cases, it is quicker for us to export to Australia than for them to ship one item from one side of the country to the other!
2) The UK has a huge pool of technological ability and this allows us to ou