The OC&C Strategy Consultants, in a study in collaboration with Google, report that online sales from outside the UK will rocket from the £4bn generated in 2012 to an estimated £28bn by 2020, accounting for around 40% of total sales revenue. Martijn Bertisen from Google has also pointed out that the top UK fashion e-commerce retailers are seeing approximately 70% of their traffic originating from outside the UK. It is therefore clear that internationalisation and global customers are an important part of doing business in the UK. For brands looking to reach this global market in 2015, there are six key areas that should first be considered:

1. Going global might mean appearing local

Your internationalisation strategy should be about making things easy for your customers and this might mean localising your brand and website. Customers should be able to access your site via their own country domain name and pay in their currency. Most consumers want to buy from a local service and some of our sellers are only interested in reaching their domestic market, so we have had to provide that, alongside a global service for those that want it.

2. Focus on where there already is customer demand

Know your market and go to where the customer is. Our recent expansion into Australia, Canada and Switzerland was because, not only are these markets important, but we knew that in these countries there was already a significant demand for our products.

3. Don’t ignore your product or service

Be aware that expanding your brand internationally does not make up for a poor, uncompetitive product or service so make sure you are good in your local market first! Poor usability or service will be poor everywhere, going global will just multiply the problem. Win at home first and then expand. Do not allow yourself to think 10%-15% of orders coming from overseas via auto translate and international shipping is being global. You are not truly global until you have a clear route to 50% of overseas orders. 10% may just be a happy accident that can be stolen by someone locally.

4. Language, SEO and local market knowledge are important

Remember that a good quality translation on its own will not attract customers to your site. You will also need to consider the relevant SEO keywords and practices to appear in search engines, which will then bring customers to your brand. You have to be local and global at the same time. To do this, we’re always working on increasing local domain names, currencies and shipping information, as well as marketing tools like banners and teasers. Consider what you can do to make your site relevant. It wouldn’t work in the UK to have a domain name, but only accept payment in euros or dollars, and it won’t work elsewhere. A local currency makes it easy for buyers to understand exactly how much everything costs.

5. Consider cultural differences

Consider the possible complications of growth in different regions. Are they culturally similar to your initial countries?  This is not just language but consumer attitudes.  For example, the US and UK are vastly different in their consumer behaviour, so perhaps look at the possibilities of partnering or acquisition in countries where doing business might be complicated or culturally very different. Often, the quickest route to success in a region is to find locally successful companies to partner with. For us, the cultural, language and geographical considerations involved in our expansion into the Brazilian market last year, meant that partnering with an established company, which already had a presence in the country, was the best option.

6. Planning and logistics are key

Finally, don’t forget that expansion is about planning and establishing good logistics with reliable shipping partners. You may be able to get your package out of the country easily, but who will be responsible for it once it arrives at the border of the delivery country? Last mile issues can often be a challenge for businesses looking to expand.

Website localisation is an important first stage for companies wanting to expand into new territories. Spending time localising your marketing activity and content and establishing reliable partners is a good investment. If not, you take the risk of losing customers and the money you spend on your expansion campaign. And given the increasing competition out there, in particular within the e-commerce sector, this isn’t something most businesses can really afford to do.

Philip Rooke

Philip Rooke


Philip Rooke is CEO of Spreadshirt.