Online commerce is driving the growth of British brands abroad. According to GOV.UK, over 340 million shoppers are now purchasing British products online from overseas. The internet means that shopping has no borders, and as a result, business in new markets is there for the taking by British retailers.

However, knowing how to tap into that opportunity effectively can be challenging. Retail brands must find a way to convey the strong UK brand while creating a strong local presence. 

In working closely with retailers and international publishers, I’ve found that there are three major considerations for marketers exploring the opportunity abroad:

Shopping habits differ around the world

Many retailers make the mistake of assuming that a marketing campaign that works in one market can be used as a blanket strategy. However, across the world purchasing habits differ. For example, James Maley, International Marketing Manager at Hilton Hotels Worldwide explained at Rakuten Marketing’s recent Symposium event that some markets – especially in the APAC region – are showing much higher mobile adoption rates than others.

Where mobile is such a large influence, marketers must invest in responsive creative, a mobile payments solution and look to mobile and app publishers that specialise in reaching on-the-go audiences to capitalise on what the mobile channel has to offer. 

Before moving into foreign markets, businesses must do their research to understand how their target audiences behave so that they can create local campaigns which target them effectively, with the right content and on the right channel.

Focus on the markets that present the biggest opportunity for growth 

For ShopStyle, the online fashion search platform, China is the biggest growth market, according to Christina Maitland, their head of commercial EU. Christina explains that in China even a small level of penetration equates to big impact on the sales made online because it is such a huge market. In addition, Christina notes that on ShopStyle, Chinese consumers have a strong intent to buy when browsing UK retailers and that their average order value is high, suggesting huge opportunity. 

As ShopStyle has shown, retailers should identify the biggest growth markets and put them at the top of their target market list. One way to remain focused on your target markets is to use a CPA payment model for your online marketing. With this model, brands only pay for the results they see, so they can gauge reaction to their brand and products before fully committing to the market with a physical store for instance. Online marketing like this allows brands to test the water and see where the opportunities lie.

Then, once the opportunity for your brand is understood in those markets, building effective marketing campaigns for those audiences should be a priority. Do research into the kind of products customers in high growth markets will buy so that they can be prioritised in the creative for your marketing. For example, a fashion brand should work with local style bloggers to understand celebrity influence and the fashion trends that are leading conversation.

Partnerships are powerful

Tap into the expertise and networks of strategic online marketing partners to identify and reach target audiences in new markets. Affiliate networks can help brands to build their presence overseas by forging relationships with local and trusted publishers, who are well known amongst the target demographic. By appearing on destination sites for target shoppers, unknown international brands are able to reach the right audiences effectively and can start to grow their own relationships with customers. 

An affiliate network will also ensure that the brand is working with publishers that echo the brand’s own tone and style. Although your brand may need to adapt to make the approach relevant locally, keeping hold of your brand identity and staying true to brand values is essential to ensure consistency around the globe. Any partnership should be carefully considered before a brand gets on board with it.

Overall, from the sales statistics and brand feedback its’ clear that British brands are in growing demand across the globe right now. This gives our retailers a strong base for demand and a massive opportunity to be successful in new markets. By understanding the market you are investing in fully and by building partnerships to connect with your desired audience, marketers have the tools at their fingertips to make international commerce a success.