In the third part of this series, ‘A Publisher’s Guide to Expansion‘, Head of Fashionchick International Catharina Zientz explains reflects on some of the biggest challenges they faced moving into the British market. Catch up with the Fashionchick team at Performance Marketing Insights next week. 

After being hit hard by the economic crisis the British consumer and the retail industries are picking up again. Especially e-commerce is on the rise and in the past year UK publishers have earned £1 billion with online performance advertising. All the more reason to get to work in that British market. Fashionchick has been present in the United Kingdom for two years and I would like to share our experiences in that market in the third article of my series.

While merchants and affiliate networks have been very welcoming towards Fashionchick, we had to work hard to gain our share of the online market. The UK market is crowded with many competitive brands trying to grab the consumers’ interest. Not only do we have many large local players, a lot of US companies use the UK market as a stepping stone into Europe, while other European player naturally have an interest in expanding into this large market. Setting your product apart and staying ahead of the competition is key in this fast paced market.

Agency driven environment

We have recognised that personal contact with business partners is indispensable. Being based in Amsterdam this is somewhat of a challenge. There are however a large number of network events scattered throughout the year, which helps to keep in touch with the local industry. It is a fast-paced environment. There is a strong trend amongst (young) digital marketing professionals to change jobs frequently, and in-person meetings with one or more contacts from the same company is a good idea. People may move on, but the conversation between partners continue. When comparing the digital advertising landscape of the UK to our other markets, we can only continue to stretch the good relation we have built with the agencies and networks. They efficiently fill the space between advertiser and publisher and often play an essential role when closing deals.  

Banner sales and data feeds

Right from the get-go we noticed a strong interest in banner advertising and branding-focused spots on our UK website. This differed from our usual business model, which focuses primarily on the integration of product data. Especially in the beginning, circa 2012, we were struggling with the quality of product data, which had been lagging behind what we were used to in the Netherlands and Germany. Quite often we felt the need to educate our partner on the relation between optimised data feeds and conversions. With perseverance, speaking at key industry events and maintaining good communications, we helped retailers improve results and conversions.

Mobile, mobile, mobile

The UK market moves fast, and often runs ahead of our other markets with regards to consumer trends. From all European markets, the UK internet user shops online most frequently. They also lead the way when it comes to mobile. Over the past year we have seen a steady decline of desktop traffic in favor of visitors from handheld devices and higher mobile conversions in the UK market than elsewhere.

Nonetheless, the conversion on mobile is still lower than desktop, and since we experience that users are click happy shoppers, the market – just like any other – still misses adequate solutions for cross device tracking sales attribution with a multichannel purchasing path. Interestingly we have started to see some prominent retailers dipping their toes into new and alternative attribution models which can only be received by publishers like us with a resounding “hooray”!

Shopping with discount

British users are very familiar with all the forms and shapes affiliate models come in – for example, four in ten people regularly use price comparison sites. The huge amount of voucher code publishers, cash-back sites and price comparison sites in the market confirm this. The UK shopper loves their discount. Merchants as well as publishers not offering these options can lose out.

The customer shows an affinity to local brands and we generally see a higher demand for British brands. The fashion market in the UK is highly trend-driven, and with continuous discounting, products are often moving in and out of stock on a weekly basis. Keeping the data feeds up to date and constantly refreshing our blog is more important than ever.

What is your impression of the British market?