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Over the hills and far away…

Over the hills and far away…

Over the hills and far away…

Paul Skeldon, Mobile Editor, InternetRetailing investigates international mobile shopping habits and how they impact on UK retailers.

DESPITE POLLS suggesting that half the UK population, give or take, want to exit Europe, retailers are much more outward looking with many seeing overseas markets – Europe and beyond – as being the way to grow business.

It’s not just the big boys. More than half of small and medium sized retailers say they aim to increase international sales in new and existing markets this year, according to Royal Mail’s annual tracker study into their ambitions.

Some 48% of small digital traders aim to sell their products in the Eurozone in 2016, up from 30% in 2015. Some are looking still further afield. Almost a third (30%) believe the US will offer the greater opportunities in the coming year, while 23% say Australasia will do that. More than a quarter rate Asia for significant sales opportunities, up from 12% a year earlier.

However, 40% are deterred from expanding their exports by a lack of knowledge, while 23% said shipping to international markets was too complex.

Alongside this, many retailers in the UK are seeing increasing amounts of traffic coming from mobile users overseas, which presents a whole new market, but also a whole new host of challenges.

Research from PayPal and IPSOS reveals that 83% of all cross-border shoppers are using smartphones to purchase abroad. However, only half (56%) of the UK’s small online businesses are selling to customers abroad via any channel. This is despite unprecedented demand for British goods –

86 million international shoppers bought from the UK in 2015.

In 2015, shopping app usage grew faster than any other category of apps. Sessions on shopping apps on iOS and Android increased by 174% year-on-year, including 220% on Android alone.

Mobile is clearly the key to international sales. So what can be done?

“83% of all cross-border shoppers are using smartphones to purchase abroad”


Retailers that are getting it right on mobile will often see an increase in traffic – and orders – coming in from overseas. Now there are several ways to handle this. First up you can just assume that, since the shoppers are coming and the orders are flowing, what you are doing clearly works in many markets and so, aside from maybe tweaking your logistics, you can do nothing.

Others may want to up their game and look at localised content based on IP address location and detection. You may also want to go further and build a dedicate site and even get it translated.

Yet none of these things are necessary. All you really need is an app.

“Internationalisation can be challenging for retailers, especially when it comes down to tailoring content to different regions,” says Oyvind Henriksen, CEO and Co-founder of app developer Poq. “But thanks to powerful technology, it’s never been easier to deliver great apps that support international expansion. Teams using the Poq platform can make changes to their app centrally, with the push of a button.”

For example, Boohoo , one of the UK’s largest online fashion retailers, has introduced internationalisation into its shopping app, using the app commerce platform Poq. Customers outside of the UK can now download and shop from the app, as well as view country-exclusive content.

The app, which is available on iOS and Android, was first launched in the UK at the end of July 2015. It now offers a country selector that allows users to switch between the UK, US and Australia. Upon switching territories, customers encounter country-specific content and the relevant currency, to enjoy a tailored shopping experience.

Boohoo’s app internationalisation comes at a time when sales generated outside of the UK make up a third (33%) of total sales, and traffic to its mobile offering account for 66% of sessions.

However, whilst 85% of UK merchants have a mobile optimised site, only 15% have a dedicated smartphone app and 9% have a dedicated tablet app. Increasing international traffic – and indeed a drive to want to sell overseas – should inspire many to look again at having an app.

While apps are expensive to develop, evidence is building that more consumers are shopping from apps and that loyal app shoppers are up to eight times more valuable to a brand than non-app users. These two factors alone should be enough, but add in an increasingly international customer base and apps become a no brainer.

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