The holiday shopping season is going global. Starting earlier and lasting longer, the high-spend events that define this pivotal retail period are no longer confined by traditional borders. From Asia to Europe, previously regional-specific shopping behaviours are now increasingly international.
Coupled with a worldwide surge in e-commerce, as more people go online to find inspiration and shop, it’s a perfect time for U.K. retailers to set their sights on new markets — even as the supply chain crisis bites.
More shoppers online means more demand on the table
Last Christmas, e-commerce sales hit record highs globally. In the U.K. total online retailing values increased by 46% compared with 2019, while global retail e-commerce sales are forecast to climb 16.8% this year, equating to roughly $4.9 trillion.
Even in countries where e-commerce penetration has traditionally been behind that of the U.K. — for example, in Germany — we saw more people doing their Christmas shopping online than ever before. And while the pandemic certainly had an impact on these numbers, globally we’ve seen a long-term pivot to digital.
Take inspiration from Marks & Spencer who is expanding into international markets. The U.K. retailer responded to heightened demand online by increasing its global reach to more than 100 countries in the past year, using Smart Shopping campaigns to get an accurate read on new entry markets.
That demand is expected to remain high this season, as new search shopping behaviours sustain. This presents a sizable opportunity for U.K. retailers that are potentially more digitally mature than competitors in some local markets.
Festive shopping events are now borderless
But more shoppers going online is only part of the story. Understanding how these shopping trends manifest and are spreading from region to region is critical to unlocking international growth. Here, search data is invaluable.
Black Friday — once largely a U.S. sales event — is now well-established across markets in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. For example, searches for "laptop black friday deals" have grown globally by over 60% year over year.1 Plus, the importance of the days around Black Friday has also grown, as 51% of shoppers seek to spread out purchases over multiple days, including the week before Black Friday.2
Perhaps of most note is the recent rise of Singles’ Day as a key promotional event outside of traditional Asia-Pacific territories. This is reflected in a year-on-year uplift in search interest for ‘Singles’ Day’ in European countries. For example, in Spain search interest is up by 16%, as more local shoppers search for deals online.
With global expansion, one size does not fit all
Although search data suggests the holiday season is now firmly a global affair, consumer behaviour is still far from uniform across regions. Recent Google research shows some revealing differences: last year, the French left a lot of their Christmas shopping until December,3 while Britons said they liked to get most of their shopping done earlier in the season than previously.4
These market variations — and ongoing global economic uncertainty — are easier to overcome, if you have the right tools to help uncover where relevant demand lies. Online-only retailer ASOS, for example, uses automation to identify opportunities and prioritise a select number of international markets. This is complemented by an incremental and ‘always on’ approach to online marketing — proving value at a smaller level before scaling up globally.
3 actions to set yourself up for international growth
U.K. retailers who are further along the digital maturity framework should find themselves in a stronger position to capture demand in new territories this festive season. But whether you’re an online fashion titan or an ambitious retail start-up, when expanding internationally let the data lead you — and use these tips to stay on top of regional market trends.
Here are three imperatives to keep your international strategy on track this Christmas:
Understand different markets and your context within them
Start with search data, using Google Trends to build up an overview of changing demand patterns over a set period and honing in on those most relevant to your business. You’ll also need to consider logistics. Google’s Market Finder tool can provide operational insights on top of identifying potential new markets at home and abroad.
Set your KPIs, but be flexible with your campaigns
Know what your goals are for each territory, based on your understanding of that market. Do you have a job to do first at the top of the funnel building brand awareness, or are you competing for market share with a local competitor? As with any digital campaign, align your activity to these KPIs and ensure your budgets are flexible — setting a target return-on-ad-spend — so you can flex with fluctuating regional demand.
Use automated adtech to scale
The more territories you expand into, the more complex your campaigns. The most effective way to navigate this and identify valuable customers on a global scale is to embrace automation. For example, Smart Shopping campaigns ensure you’re present and visible in the places where shoppers are in the market for a product or service like yours, optimising bids, budgets, and placement in line with demand to get the most from your campaigns.