With over 80% of the UK population shopping online versus in-store, more international businesses are entering this territory in order to capitalise on this booming trend. Within the eCommerce landscape, the largest sector is apparel, with sales in 2022 accounting for close to a third of overall eCommerce revenue.
Whilst the industry continues to grow, competitors will continue to flock, making it harder for brands to acquire loyal customers. With this in mind, we look at factors for brands to consider when launching in the UK and tips for how digital marketing can grow audience size and help your brand stand out.
Factors to consider when launching in the UK
Value of your products
Currently the biggest challenge is around the weakened British pound, which makes international brands such as the US or Australia a lot more expensive for consumers in the UK. With the current state of the British pound coupled with the cost-of-living crisis, UK consumers will be watching what they spend more carefully.
It is worth researching your competitors and seeing if the price you are selling your products is competitive for the UK market. Something worth considering is to be more aggressive with pricing in the short term while focusing on customer acquisition in order to acquire a solid audience size and build long-term value. How your brand decides to offer competitive pricing will impact how you approach things operationally to keep the cost of the sale down.
Website localisation into GBP
A UK consumer is going to want the site to reflect what they are used to seeing. When US and Australian brands think about European expansion, the UK is the simplest choice because of that localisation simplification of UK English. Mainland Europe is a lot more challenging as every country will need to be localised differently.
For UK consumers, sites need to be visible in GBP with clear pricing, not just a currency conversion. For example, if the conversion equates to £86.43 for a pair of shoes, you should change that to become £89.99 as it reads better and it is what consumers expect to see. The same applies during a checkout process. Large delivery fees or duties added to the basket will result in lost conversions. The takeaway is to think about GBP pricing for the UK consumer as they would normally see it, and not just as a currency exchange.
It is crucial to ensure search engines know that your brand has a specific UK site. For example, if you are a US brand, you would need to have a US site as well as a UK site so that both versions can rank independently and not cannibalise each other. You can do this through a domain strategy. Following the previous example of being a US brand, you can do ‘.com’ for US site and ‘.co.uk’ for the UK site, or ‘.com/en-gb’ for the UK site and ‘.com/en-us’ for the US site.
Delivery and return times
One-day and express shipping is becoming an expectation among UK consumers as more brands are offering this. Returns is also currently a hot topic and so it is key to ensure that customers in the UK can easily return items to either a warehouse in the UK or the country of your brand.
Tips on successfully launching your brand in the UK
Get your awareness right
If your brand is unknown in the UK, market research is key. This is a time when you should consider pulling back on spending, looking into your key competitors/wholesale partner activity, and saving your budget for when you can compete. You need to start with PR and Social prospecting to build your brand awareness amongst a new audience. Is your UK audience the same as the audience in your home market? Building awareness at the top of the marketing funnel allows brands to diligently select the lucrative segment they can target.
If you are a well-known brand but haven’t been able to have consumers buy direct, then the strategy can be more acquisition-focused and tell the audience that they are now able to buy direct. Channels like Paid Search are much more prominent here.
Set up your international websites for SEO from the start
It is important to set up your international websites for SEO from the start. Simple and correct use of hreflang tags will help search crawlers understand you have duplicate sites for different countries and prevents versions from being blocked. Hrelflang tags are a method to markup pages that are similar in meaning but aimed for different countries and/or regions. To read more about this in detail, you can do so through Yoast’s ultimate guide here.
Without this being set up from the start, you will find that your UK store struggles to rank organically, or that your existing presence is impacted and you lose visibility and traffic in your established market.
Gather data quickly and optimise
Gathering data early is key and can be seen best through Paid Search and Google Shopping as your brand is able to use keyword targeting which can allow you to focus on the traffic you are generating. This can enable your brand to produce higher quality traffic that you can learn more from. The hope is that sales come with this spend, but in the early weeks to months you need to be more focused on adapting to a new audience. As brand awareness builds and engagement grows, the PPC activity then becomes a key acquisition channel driven by ROI, ROAS and CPA thresholds.
Don’t underestimate the power of content
Do not assume that your content works in all markets. A topic relevant in the US may not be relevant in the UK. Utilise search trends and keyword data in each market to create separate content strategies to ensure the content you are creating is relevant to your target audiences. Look at SEO trends and see what type of content ranks better for specific markets. SEO ranks for quality of content so make sure that the content your brand is pushing out to your audience is relevant.
This is more important than ever with the recent Google Helpful Content algorithm update. To read more about what this is and who it will affect most, click here.
The technical details matter
Ensure you have your tracking and analytics set up correctly for new market data from the start so you are able to track what’s working and what’s not working. The analytics tool that is used by most brands is Google Analytics. Read more here about how your brand can make better decisions across the marketing funnel through using Google Analytics 4 (GA4).
The PHA Group is well placed to support your international brands growth in the UK, with experience working with brands such as La Perla, Needle & Thread and Skatehut. If your eCommerce business would like to discuss this further then please get in touch with our team of experts today.