UK retailers have seized international opportunities

9th July 2013
uk flag and international expansion

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.


Retailers should offer a personalised online experience

21st May 2013
sewing a button

Being relevant and personal online has never been more important. Personalisation is another of those buzzwords that’s been kicking around in the ecommerce space for a decade or so, but I’m not 100% sure anyone knows exactly what constitutes personalisation. However, I am 100% sure that very few retailers practice it.

As we hurtle towards a world of common value propositions and vanilla websites that follow conventional best practice, how do you differentiate? Surely behavioural-driven personalisation is the only way to achieve real differentiation?

Despite there being many third-party software applications that drive dynamic merchandising and personalisation online, very few retailers bother to deliver relevant product offers and personalised content to customers.

The ‘person’ in personalisation

But hang on a minute – turn the clocks back 30 to 40 years. When you walked in the door of your local hardware store, the owner knew when you were coming in that he hadn’t seen you for six months and that you were most likely after some replacement light bulbs. He also knew you probably needed some batteries.

Or when your gran walked into her local womenswear store the staff knew she was after her winter tights and that they could cross-sell her some gloves and a scarf.

You can also bet your bottom dollar that when your mum and dad walked into their small local convenience store, the owner knew them by name, knew what their weekly shop included and would always cross-sell them some nice treats.


We have the technology and the capability to do all of this in ecommerce and yet less than 1% of all retailers offer a truly personalised experience.

From a communications perspective, few retailers even bother sending segmented and behavioural-driven emails, never mind truly personalised ones.

To this end, a special thank you to John Lewis for its email three weeks ago offering to sell me a nice new range of ladies’ workwear but, unless it knows something I don’t and I’m likely to begin cross-dressing sometime soon, I’m unlikely to take it up on this opportunity.