Conquering foreign shores: taking your brand abroad

Recently  OC&C Strategy Consultants and Google released a compelling report entitled the British e-mpire, which predicted that by 2020 international sales for retailers will rise three times faster than domestic sales and account for 40% of all sales, up from 14% in 2012.

This trend was largely credited to the likes of Topshop and Mulberry taking international markets such as Asia and the US by storm. Always considered somewhat quirky when it comes to fashion, the world has decided that what the UK has, it wants. This is great news as there are many small, individual companies that stand to benefit as well as the bigger players.  The internet already accounts for just over eight per cent of the UK’s GDP and the findings of this report indicate that figure is only set to rise.

The study found that the majority of non-UK searches are coming from Western Europe, the US and Asia. It is considered that Western Europe represents a good growth market for UK retailers, as there are fewer commercial barriers in place. As such the report estimates that by 2020, Western Europe will account for £9.8bn of online sales. So, it looks like ecommerce, which has already revolutionised the retail sector, is set to be the gift that that keeps on giving. Clearly, retailers will want to make the most of the growing demand in the regions that the report highlights. Marketing will have a key role to play in helping them to build brand awareness, retain customers and make the right sales that can sustain their expansion in the longer term.  Given the geographic barriers, arguably it is online marketing that stands to be the most effective channel for etailers to engage potential customers around the world.

But how? Where to start? The obvious place might seem to be SEO, email targeting or utilising relevant cash back sites, but you’d actually be getting a bit ahead of yourself.  Marketing activity needs to be determined based on some key factors.  Many brands that seek to conquer foreign shores, often forget that their brand awareness might actually be relatively low. Therefore there is the need to educate and engage consumers in order to create the demand for your product. So many companies overlook this point and go in guns blazing, but there are very subtle differences between what activities you need to undertake when you are just entering a market versus when you are well established. When you enter a market and are struggling for share of voice, it is likely that you’ll be much more assertive with your marketing efforts, but as the brand becomes established activity needs to better reflect its values and the experience it promises customers. This might seem like an obvious point but surprisingly it is often overlooked.

In online marketing, content is king. Knowing when and where to serve up your content in order to have the maximum impact on sales is key. And so is understanding the context of these channels in the wider customer purchasing journey. For example, in the UK across our network we see that mobile browsing peaks during the morning commute, people are snacking on mobile content rather than looking for a real experience or making purchases.  But in Scandinavia, mcommerce saw a significant 240% increase from 2011 to 2012 meaning that content delivered via mobile channels is central to converting sales. Understanding these local nuances, so often overlooked, is vital.  The history of marketing is littered with faux pas of how different meanings translate in different cultures and languages. Yet despite lessons learnt still some brands can be uncompromising in how they take their messages to market and via what channels.  This can have damaging ramifications for those looking to expand outside of their domestic market and take advantage of new growth opportunities. Especially at a time when chances such as those highlighted by the report are so rare.

Equally, retailers need to be brave. So much of ecommerce has been built on technical innovations and how they approach new markets needs to reflect the uniqueness of their offering.  There are exciting times ahead for British retailers and the right marketing has a pivotal role to play in maximising new market opportunities.

Dorothea von Wichert-Nick

Dr. Dorothea von Wichert-Nick is CEO of affilinet and member of the board at Sedo Holding AG. As CEO, Dorothea von Wichert-Nick is in charge of strategy, innovation management, marketing, sales and customer service across the affilinet group. Dorothea’s work focuses on strengthening the leading role of affilinet, increasing productivity and fostering the internationalization of affilinet, thus helping to shape the performance market.

Prior to joining affilinet, she was Managing Director at Solon Management Consulting, an international management consultancy focused on Telecom and Media. Her work included the development of new business models for European media and telecommunications businesses and a broad range of M&A projects.

During her career she has also managed strategic European market research at Deutsche Telekom and has been a researcher at the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems Engineering and Innovation Research.
Dorothea is an industrial engineer and has a PhD in economics.

Her philosophy is that successful management means broadening your horizons and inspiring people.

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