Saturday 23 January 2021 7:00 am

Brexit friction should spark new ideas for retail exports

Tommy Kelly is CEO of eShopWorld

Many retailers received a welcome boost during the Covid-19 crisis with a rise in online orders from international markets, but with exports to EU member states facing teething problems in the form of higher costs and processing delays, now’s the time for retailers to broaden their reach and tap into new markets further afield.

Research carried out by Coresight Research, in partnership with eShopWorld, suggests brands and retailers that want to convert consumer demand into sales, build shopper loyalty and drive repeat sales need to provide a ‘domestic-equivalent’ ecommerce experience for their cross–border shoppers.

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As things stand, that may mean Indonesia rather than Italy and Singapore rather than Spain.

One thing the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit has taught us about cross-border online shopping is the importance of adaptability and localisation. In a world where the direct-to-consumer channel has become the primary channel for shopping, customers have come to expect a frictionless shopping experience, regardless of where they live.

With Brexit adding friction as well as the potential for costs to be passed on in the form of higher prices, consumers will be unforgiving to brands who fail to meet their online shopping expectations.

ESW research shows brand loyal French and German shoppers are more likely to continue to shop from UK brands than to not continue, even though 65% expect costs to rise. So, retailers and brands may have to look to new horizons, while the trade relationship with the EU normalises.

The markets are there and the potential to grow sales, reach and brand loyalty is immense; with cross-border online shopping predicted by Forrester to account for 17% of total ecommerce sales in 2023 and eShopWorld’s Market & Innovation Review in 2019 predicting total cross-border sales to rise to $994 billion in 2020 (with further growth likely given the accelerator impact of COVID), addressing this customer demand has become a business necessity.

Selling internationally not only means greater and more diverse audiences, but also additional opportunities to optimise marketing efforts to capitalise on multiple shopping events during the year, match seasonal inventory to local seasons, and meet market conditions on the ground, in an ever-evolving global market.

But capitalising on this great opportunity means delivering in-country ecommerce experiences that are difficult and complex to build, not to mention costly.

While brands could in theory enter over 200 markets at once, each region will have its own needs. Cross-border technology and service providers allow retailers and brands to roll out to new markets faster than building operations in-house.

For the retailers and brands who move quickly, they will capture the opportunities post-Brexit. It is the brands who offer a seamless customer journey that will see customer retention, sales increase and a higher net promoter score, particularly in those countries where great service is a given.

Read more: City A.M. Editor Andy Silvester talks to Chancellor Rishi Sunak about the future of the City

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