Britain is once again colonising the world as retailers expand their reach through ecommerce and multichannel with a number of approaches:
- Standardisation: Debenhams does this. Australians can buy from Debenhams online, but its delivery service to Oz takes 10 to 14 working days, which will limit demand.
- Adaptation: localise some aspects. Alfred Dunhill lets German customers pay in euros on an English-language site as customers ask: “Wie viel kostet das?”
- Full localisation: Clarks has done a great job with localised language, content, customer service, pricing and payment methods.
- Multichannel market entry: lead with online, open stores. River Island has taken this approach ahead of opening stores in Australia.
The internationalisation opportunity is significant.
Asos sends three jumbo jets full of product to Australia every week. generating about £1.25m in sales in the process.
Of course, the emerging Chinese market is a priority for UK retailers as it will be the largest online business to consumer market by the end of 2014.
That said, there are some who haven’t even switched on the buy button for international customers, Harvey Nichols being just one.
With many US retailers struggling to get their heads around localisation, and European and Asian retailers slowly getting their act together online, UK retailers have seized the opportunity to take market share.
This may surprise you, but US retailers are starting to recognise that the UK leads the way, and we have seen this with the recruitment of key individuals such as Ish Patel, who is moving to the US to head global ecommerce for Victoria’s Secret (a rotten job, but someone’s got to do it).
As was the case with the British Empire, we shouldn’t rest on our laurels, as it won’t be too long before international retailers wake up to the opportunities in the UK.
After all, we have a stabilising economy, the highest spend per capita online globally and the highest percentage of total retail sales online. So we are an attractive consumer market.