In an increasingly global world, businesses large and small are branching into the international market via online shopping and the construction of physical stores. Entering new markets poses significant risks for businesses. Cultural differences combined with varying levels of supply and demand may prove challenging especially when businesses have limited access to information about customers. Simply determining how people react to the product in the new location may present a wide array of problems.

Fortunately, businesses have access to social data and to social media monitoring and analysis tools that can help to inform entrance into new markets and minimise risk. Social media analysis allows businesses to assess new markets by offering insights into consumer preferences and comparisons between the home and foreign markets.

One company that has experienced success entering new markets is the British eatery, Pret a Manger. Pret opened their first store in London back in 1986 and since then they have opened stores in the United States, France, and Hong Kong. Known for using natural ingredients and freshly made products, Pret has earned a positive reputation and created a growing brand.

Pret has 240 stores in the United Kingdom and has grown significantly in the past two years, opening 20 stores in the 2012 and 20-30 stores in 2013. Pret has also built 57 stores in the United States since 2000 and 3 more stores are coming soon.

Pret’s entrance into the Boston area in November of 2012 is a prime example of an international brand entering a new regional market. While there are currently 3 stores in Boston, 2 more are under construction and due to open this summer.

I used our ForSight intelligence platform to analyse Tweets about Pret from October 2012 to June 2014 to compare and contrast consumers in the UK and in the US. Over this 20 month time period, there have been over 66,000 posts written about Pret in the UK and over 23,000 posts written in the US. Based on the ratio of UK to US stores, these volumes suggest a strong performance in the United States.

Interestingly, combining volume and topic analysis highlights the events that garnered Pret the most conversation in both the US and UK. In the UK, spikes in conversation were inspired by a crisp controversy and praise for Pret’s high profits, benefiting expansion and job creation. An extended period of increased conversation occurred during the Christmas season in 2012 when Pret raised money to end homelessness.

Similar trends can be seen in the United States. A spike in interest occurred during the campaign against homelessness, a contest for best mince pie, which Pret won, and a rather unusual incident involving a frog that made its way into a Pret salad.

Interestingly, there was not a spike in conversation when Pret opened in Boston. While this may be true, topics of conversation are clearly influenced by the openings and this became more apparent when topics were restricted to Massachusetts. Many Twitter authors discussed the free lunch promotion that Pret offered to attract customers to their new stores. Topics of conversation can also be sorted by keyword to highlight the words and phrases Tweeters associate with specific locations, products, and categories.

Crimson Hexagon’s Affinities tool highlights the interests of the members of the conversation. Not surprisingly, the interests that most strongly differentiate US and UK Tweeters are location and sports related.  For instance, people discussing Pret in the US are 70 times more likely to be interested in baseball than people talking about Pret in the UK while people talking about Pret in the UK are 5 times more likely to be interested in football than people talking about Pret in the US.

In terms of location, people in the UK are more likely to be interested in cities like London and Manchester, while people in the US are more likely to be interested in the four cities in which Pret is located, New York City, Boston, Chicago, and Washington DC. For example, people talking about Pret in the US are 199 times more likely to be interested in New York City than people talking about Pret in the UK.

Differences can also be seen in business-related interests. Pret’s position as a lunchtime provider in major US cities appears to strongly influence interests. People talking about Pret in the US are 3 times more likely to be interested in content marketing than people talking about Pret in the UK. Other related interests that are stronger in the US include communications, management, and sales. There are also interests that are shared by people talking about Pret in the US and in the UK. For instance, tech related interests such as software development and innovation are shared about the same among authors in the US and UK.

While entering into a foreign market always includes risks and benefits, businesses can decrease risks and increase benefits with social media monitoring and analysis. Crimson Hexagon offers comprehensive analysis that is capable of exploring consumers’ conversations and interests. While several examples have been provided, there are endless ways to conduct analysis.

For instance, Affinities can be used to compare people talking about Pret to the Twitter audience in general and to people talking about competitors. Analysing prospective markets and monitoring current conversation offers businesses the information they need to predict and respond to issues they may encounter in foreign markets and to inform their entrance strategy.

Luke Moore

Luke Moore


Luke Moore is UK Regional Sales Manager at Crimson Hexagon.