Local Insights: UK

March 5, 2015

Welcome to the latest installment in our Local Insights series, which features tips on expanding your e-commerce business into international markets.

We’ve already looked at Germany, the US and Australia and New Zealand, so there’s still time to catch up if you’re thinking of selling in these countries. This week, we’re going to focus on the United Kingdom (UK).

The UK has one of the most advanced e-commerce markets in the world, with e-commerce sales exceeding $100 billion for the first time in 2014. The IMRG predicts that e-commerce sales will increase a further 12% in 2015, giving plenty of reasons for you to look carefully at how to boost your sales.

Market on Marketplaces: When it comes to selling in the UK, the biggest marketplaces are eBay and Amazon. Over 19 million Brits visit eBay every month — that’s well over one third of the UK’s adult population. With Amazon boasting 244 million customers globally — a number that increased by 30 million in 2014 — there’s a broad customer base for retailers to attract.

Though Amazon is undeniably a big player, it’s not the only one out there making a splash. If you haven’t already done so, consider listing on Rakuten (up until recently known as Play.com). As the third largest marketplace in the UK, Play.com has been a popular marketplace for UK retailers and consumers alike, and it’s now transitioning over to the Rakuten marketplace by the end of March 2015. Many retailers are excited at the prospect of joining a new marketplace with global possibilities, as well as taking advantage of opportunities such as:

  • Personalizing their online shops with branding, categories, products and stories
  • Creating exclusive offers that can be promoted directly through their own email database
  • Building a strong relationship with customers through marketing, customer service and the Rakuten Super Points loyalty program

Think Multichannel: Don’t just limit yourself to marketplaces. Building a portfolio of e-commerce channels is an investment that will continue to pay off. Consider broadening your reach to additional channels to improve conversions. If you sell on Google, you could expand to other search engines, and if you operate on one shopping feed, you could try listing your inventory across multiple shopping feeds. Investigating new channels could help you dramatically increase your customer base.

Capture Mobile Traffic: You should also ask yourself whether you’re capturing enough UK mobile consumers. Mobile devices are no longer just a means for browsing on the go. Recent research by IMRG and Cap Gemini revealed that between November 2014 and January 2015, 40% of UK online sales were completed on tablets and smartphones, up 37% on the previous quarter. Optimizing your listings for mobile is a crucial way to increase customer satisfaction, engagement and sales. If you list on Amazon and eBay, your listings are already set up to effectively capture mobile traffic. (And shoppers will likely find it easy to purchase through these apps.) Don’t forget to optimize your images for mobile use. For example, if you sell on eBay, you’ll need images with a minimum of 1600 pixels across to ensure your listings show up correctly on mobile devices.

Plan Ahead: One of the major trends to look out for in 2015 is the year’s upcoming Black Friday. In 2014, the day reached fever pitch in the UK, with online sales increasing by more than a third, the highest growth ever at that time of year. Barclays found that 65% of Britain’s retailers planned Black Friday promotions in 2014, so make sure yours are in the works for 2015. Amazon declared November its busiest month ever, with more than 5.5 million items ordered – that’s an incredible 64 items per second. Be prepared for increased sales at these times of year, and ensure you can cover increased demand and meet deliveries so you don’t let customers down.

Focus on Fulfillment: Fulfillment is an incredibly important focus area for UK retailers, as UK customers have come to expect a range of delivery options. In fact, if they find your delivery options unattractive, 50% will abandon the purchase. From next-day or same-day delivery, to lockers and click-and-collect services, or even Sunday deliveries, UK consumers expect fast and convenient delivery options. Retailers of all sizes can get involved with trends like click and collect, with eBay and Argos partnering to allow eBay retailers deliver to over click and collect at over 650 Argos stores. To qualify, you need to offer free postage and delivery within five days through an eligible carrier and service.

Consumers would also like to see more Saturday deliveries, and since only 33% of retailers offer this option, you could stand out by making it one of your unique selling points. Additionally, Amazon’s Sunday deliveries have grown by more than four times in the past year, taking fast delivery to a new level. Although you may not be able to offer the fastest, cheapest fulfillment, aim to offer a service that’s as fast, reliable and fair priced as you can. This should be a key priority in 2015.

Next Steps

We hope you’ve found these pointers helpful. For more information about expanding your e-commerce business abroad, read our information-packed eBook series on Agile Cross-Border Trade. In the coming weeks, we’ll be taking a closer look at expanding your business into Brazil and China, so don’t forget to check back in.