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GUEST COMMENT Beyond Britain: the international retail luxury opportunity

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Britain has become the go-to destination for shoppers looking to get the most from their luxury purchasing spend. A weak pound and the bonus of VAT-free prices for tourists has made Britain more attractive than ever. With the market set to grow by 4% this year, luxury British brands have a prime opportunity to look beyond British borders to maximise international e-commerce potential and target ‘tourist shoppers’ online once they return home. Although Burberry has experienced a 30% jump in sales in the three months following the vote for Brexit, and Aspinal of London has advanced ambitious overseas expansion plans, this is not a universal rule. According to global management consultancy, Mckinsey, 57% of British luxury brands are not investing enough in ecommerce. This suggests that there is an opportunity gap that can be filled by an effective international digital marketing strategy.

Marketing effectively to individual international markets online requires so much more than simple translation. Understanding the nuances of local culture, how language is used, how different colours are perceived, perceptions of non-local brands, devices use to search and purchase, are all key to ensuring that a digital marketing strategy is optimised for success.

Using insights from our LIME (local in-market expert) network, we look at attitudes to shopping for luxury goods from the UK, in selected countries.


Research suggests that 42% of UK consumers think that brands should emphasise their Britishness in the wake of Brexit, but our LIME network has shown that this won’t be well received everywhere.

China is often considered as a strong market for British luxury brands. William, a LIME in China said: “Most Chinese people don’t know the origin of luxury brands, although British luxury brands sound good to the local Chinese people. Dunhill is the most popular luxury brand from the UK in China, and other well-known brands include Burberry, Mulberry, and Loake.”

Identifying what makes your products attractive to Chinese consumers is key to building effective online campaigns to drive engagement and sales. Local insight on product preferences, seasonal trends, payment and delivery expectations need to inform this strategy.


British brands looking for growth in Russia must prioritise building general awareness of product quality, as opposed to the origin – this is where the opportunity lies. Like China, Brand Britain does not carry enough meaning for it to be a valuable marketing message to prioritise, it’s more about brand education. Anton, LIME for Russia, outlined “I’m afraid the UK is not connected to luxury in the minds of average Russians. Luxury for us is France (perfume), Italy (clothes), Germany (cars), Japan (electronics), Switzerland (watches), US (software). But Britain? Nope. Music and football.”

Social media advertising, with celebrity endorsement, is recommended to communicate and raise awareness with local consumers.


Interestingly, emerging luxury clothing, accessories and homeware markets, such as Poland express a more positive feeling towards British brands than those that have an established luxury market, such as Russia and China. Alicja, a LIME in Poland, said “In Poland, consumers perceive British shoes and clothes to be of very high quality. This is particularly notable over the likes of Italian counterparts.” When prioritising Poland in international expansion, find out about the existing bias that might help or hinder your plans and adjust accordingly.


In India, there is a ripe opportunity for e-commerce growth and expansion. Indira, one of our LIMEs in India, explained “Local perceptions of British Luxury brands are very positive in India. People trust British and American luxury brands even more than native brands.”

For some consumers, simply being imported from a more affluent wealthy country constitutes luxury. This is a key consideration for luxury brands, as they must be certain that messaging and strategy conveys true luxury. Use tactics that encourage consumers to perceive that they are purchasing a product that will deliver not only quality, but value for money over time. Indira, a LIME in India, explained: “Value for money is important to Indian consumers. Their purchases are mostly driven by perceptions of value, and brands should be aware of this.”

South Korea

Considering its power as a burgeoning luxury market, South Korea could also be a strong target territory for investment. Sun, one of our LIMEs in South Korea advised that the ‘Made in Britain’ label is an asset here “In general, “British” means high quality and dignity as people in South Korea associate the label with heritage and tradition. However, many British brands are not recognised as “British” in South Korea. British brands need to make the most of the association with the ’British’ label to improve awareness and popularity amongst local consumers.”

Tailored for success

The luxury international marketplace is ripe with online opportunity, particularly in growing markets such as India and South Korea. However, ensuring that the experience and brand feel is consistent across all touchpoints within the market is key for luxury brands. It’s no mean feat, and success hangs on the right online strategy.

Raising brand awareness through local marketing campaigns driving consumers to a localised e-commerce site that meets their expectations is critical. Understanding where Britishness is an important brand message – suggesting heritage, quality or innovation – and where it has less value will benefit your overall strategy.

Top tips

• Achieve effective cut through in new markets by combining online and offline campaigns to showcase a consistent brand.

• Optimise and amplify rich mediums such as; video, images and articles to make luxury more engaging.

• Reflect local consumer online searches in content creation to engage better in the market.

Greig Holbrook is founder of Oban International

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