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GUEST COMMENT Three tips for international success online

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Right now Britishness is big business: according to, over 340 million consumers are buying British products online from overseas and overseas exporters have a 59% faster growth rate than retailers who do not offer overseas exports. This means that online shopping can be a truly global phenomenon for British brands.

However, retailers need to consider how they can capitalise on the trend for Britishness to gain a footprint in international markets, in a way that is safe for their brand, as well as their revenue figures and profit targets.

Understanding the opportunity available to British retailers in expanding internationally and driving your brand to success are two different things, so here are four tips which can help retailers on their journey to international success:

Don’t underestimate the British foundations which can help you grow

While consumer demand for British brands is clearly important, it’s not the only reason the UK is such a strong retail market currently. As Damien Clothier, head of acquisition at pointed out in a panel session at Rakuten Marketing Symposium, the UK is home to growing tech talent and companies can harness the innovative customer experiences these retail technologies are providing. Start-ups like Poq , for instance, allow brands to create unified experiences on apps. This means that retailers can monetise their apps and connect them with in store and online experiences.

Damien also suggests that the postal system deserves more recognition than we give it. The strong postal network we have in the UK allows us to deliver goods to other countries with ease, which isn’t possible in all markets. 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. Quick delivery of products gives British brands a lead in establishing a positive retailer-consumer relationship.

Expanding internationally is no easy feat, so retailers should be leveraging the benefits at their fingertips – both in industry talent and the postal networks – and considering how they can build on this to begin expanding into global markets.

Consider new market nuances

Too often retailers fail abroad because they assume that a product or marketing campaign that works in one market can be used as a blanket strategy. However, even within Europe purchasing habits change, so when you extend this globally, there are significant differences across markets.

At Rakuten Marketing Symposium, James Maley, international marketing manager at Hilton Hotels Worldwide explained that some markets – especially in the APAC region – have much higher mobile adoption rates than any other market. For example in China, 4G has been available for a long time and has a high adoption rate. Therefore for retailers looking at 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 more easily. Mobile is gaining speed across the globe so understanding what part it plays in the journey to purchase in each market is imperative.

Find a trusted partner

If a retailer is trying to undergo international expansion alone, it can become a daunting prospect. However, expanding internationally doesn’t have to be such a step into the unknown if you have expert partners at your side.

For example, affiliate networks can help brands to build their presence overseas and make informed decisions about their marketing spend in local markets. They can help with decisions such as investment in search; for example in the UK, brands need to stay on top of the Google algorithm to succeed. However there are other key players in search abroad, such as Yandex, which is the top search engine in Russia.

Affiliate marketing also allows foreign brands to partner with publishers that are trusted in the new market, meaning that the brand can start to build relationships with customers. Although these shoppers may not be aware of your foreign brand yet, they will be looking to your publisher partner as a destination shopping site. This also ensures that brands are working with a publisher that echoes their tone and style. By providing these benefits, partners can help retailers to understand the market, audiences and the best way to get your message across.

Do not underestimate the power of subtle nuances and insider tips that can help to bridge the geographical and cultural gap between you and your customer as you begin the journey towards international retailing. To engage the audience, retailers will need to consider how their marketing needs to be tailored to local relevance. Understand the market you are investing in, leverage the strong export position of the UK, and build partnerships to help you connect with your desired audience, allowing you to realise the magnitude of the global marketplace.

Mark Haviland is MD of Rakuten Marketing Europe

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