One of the biggest stereotypical influences in today’s society is an individual’s nationality. However, Brits are not only known for there ‘tea and crumpets’ but also their luxury British labels (Matthews, 2014 ). In fact, a research report conducted by Barclays discovered that 64% of consumers in emerging markets are more inclined to buy brands with a British label. They are even willing to pay up to 7% extra for these products (Barclays, 2014)!
British Brands in High Demand
UK brand awareness is at a all time high following the London Olympic games and advancements in digital technologies which has allowed retailers to promote in key cities around the globe (GOV.UK, 2014). The royal family is also a great interest of those living outside Britain and adds to the ‘upmarket, posh’ perception of Britain (Otnes & Maclaran, 2015). Brands and items of clothing worn by the royals quickly becomes popular with fans, for example, Princess Charlotte was recently photographed wearing a cardigan from John Lewis, which then went to sell out in the next hour (Leaper, 2017).
Some of the best retail brands in the world are sourced in Britain, including Burberry, Asos, Vivienne Westwood and Stella McCartney. Not forgetting the popularity of famous department stores like Selfridges, Harrods and the best Christmas advert producer, John Lewis, who is trying to expand their international footprint (Hendriksz, 2016). Whilst other UK brands are attempting to expand their appeal in markets like East Asia and Africa, 37% of luxury brands are already present in China (GOV.UK, 2014).
How have Retailers Broken International Barriers?
- One in ten UK companies sell and export goods overseas by setting up an attractive, user friendly website (Bearne, 2016). Paid ads and search engine optimisation helps to increase click through rates onto the site (Ryan, 2014).
- Burberry realise the importance of advertising when it comes to sustaining a luxury image. All their marketing activities are managed from London in order to sustain a coherent brand identity. They focus on producing advertisements that focus on the firm’s heritage and history: an aspect of the company that is a selling point for international consumers (Moore & Birtwistle, 2015).
(Image 1- Burberry ‘Best of British’ spread in Vogue)
(Image 2- British actress, Emma Watson in Burberry advert)
- Using digital marketing techniques to target specific audiences is helping retailers to branch out internationally. For example, Topshop use micro-targeting techniques to help their products and services ‘speak directly to consumers with individual needs’ (Topshop, 2017).
- A focus on personalisation is apparent. Nike (although not a British retailer) have focused on appealing to independent customers by launching ‘NikeID’ on their website. This appeals to international markets by allowing the consumer to design their own trainers online to align with different cultural preferences (Fleishman, July).
- Topshop and John Lewis use social media as a platform to engage with their different audiences. Topshop stay up to date with new market trends and innovations. For example they created a ‘style gallery’ that allows customers to upload pictures of themselves wearing Topshop clothing, similar to bloggers, who are extremely popular with the millennial generation (Topshop, 2017). John Lewis focuses on viral social media marketing by tapping into their customer’s emotions. They do this by developing Christmas adverts; their most recent ‘Buster the Boxer ‘advert generated over 21 million global views (Sweney, 2016).
(Image 3- Toyshop ‘Style Gallery’)
(Image 4- ‘Buster the Boxer’ from John Lewis Christmas advert)
Not all have had success
Not all retailers however have had success overseas, for instance Tesco failed to engage the US market with their ‘Fresh and Easy’ stores. They offered British style ready meals that are unfamiliar to US consumers and they relied on self-service tills as their primary payment points, which Americans do not favour over human assistance (Butler, 2012). M&S opened stores in Canada without any consideration for the markets unique needs that differ from the US. This concluded in losses and the closure of all the Canadian stores (Quinn, 2001).
(Image 5- Tesco, ‘Fresh & Easy’ store in the US)
Perhaps ‘dipping a toe in’ with less risky, cost effective digital marketing strategies is the best way to begin expansion into international markets. Investing heavily into ‘setting up shop’ and taking a ‘feet first’ approach like Tesco is a brave strategy and even more risky after the announcement of BREXIT (Dhonota, 2016). It is apparent that effective innovation and good use of digital technologies explains why the UK is now the second biggest online retailer exporter (Ruddick, 2014).
Read this Racounteur article on ‘Going Global’ to discover more!
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