Cross border commerce could banish the ghost of Christmas past

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As we approached Christmas, many retailers were crossing their fingers for a last-minute sales boost, following the expected post-Black Friday lull. This is now a recurring issue for UK retailers and I expect many are already considering how to combat this next year.

Black Friday footfall rose by 2% on last year, yet, the data we’ve collected at Qubit showed that for digital shop fronts it was largely a mixed bag. Online purchases were lower than expected, and the entire weekend saw 50% fewer customers than any Christmas shopping weekend this year. However, Black Friday generated nearly 40% more revenue than the successive weekends, highlighting the potential of high spend shoppers hitting the web in search for deals.

There is clearly potential for revenue growth here, but as retailers pour over the huge amount of festive data and analysis, it is the largely untapped potential to increase international spend that I wanted to bring your attention to. It could be just the cure for your Black Friday hangover.

International Christmas shopping is already a major source of revenue for fashion retailers, and while overseas customers accounted for 17% of fashion sales during this year’s festive period, they contributed more than a third (34%) of revenues, according to our data. So far in this year’s Christmas period, the average order value (AOV) for customers from Germany, Japan, and Russia, has outstripped order spend from the UK by as much as 546%. Despite spending more on average than their British-based counterparts, these countries actually had the lowest numbers of conversions. In other words, German shoppers were browsing British websites, and whilst those who proceeded to the checkout certainly spent heavily, a large proportion of them were still moving on without purchasing.

Clearly, British fashion retailers should be striving to nudge more high-value international shoppers over the line and turn browsers into buyers. The best asset at their disposal is the data that these potential customers provide every time they engage with a brand or retailer.

The truth is that many businesses simply don’t know the opportunity is there. Large swathes of retailers continue to provide generic, one-size-fits-all, shopping experiences, no matter where their customers are based. We all know that it’s far easier to keep a customer on your website if you’re offering an experience that taps into who they are, what they want and their preferred shopping habits. Logging a customer’s location is probably the most basic form of ‘understanding’ them, yet only a relatively small group actually collect this information and fewer still act on that insight.

By consolidating and analysing this data with purchase history, website analytics and real-time customer feedback you can then paint an accurate picture of who the customer is and what they want.

In the past, this would have been relatively time-intensive, but today’s technology and data storage power enables us to do this in a blink of an eye. Applying machine learning, for example, not only allows retailers to identify under-performing segments of international shoppers, but can also help them act on this data and provide highly personalised experiences at scale.

How you act on this data is the truly vital part. Simply changing the language, or altering the colour of a button will no longer cut it. A more sophisticated approach is required to convince today’s discerning shoppers to part with their cash.

For instance, if Russian customers are browsing and not buying, brands can utilise machine learning to identify this group and highlight specific discounts or offers tailored to them. Alternatively, having identified a group of Japanese shoppers who are abandoning their baskets due to shipping costs, retailers are able to temporarily advertise free international delivery exclusively to this audience. In both cases this would remove the barriers to conversion for the target group without eroding retailer margins by providing all visitors with the same offer or discount.

You could even uncover a large group of British expats buying items from their Spanish holiday homes, separate them from native Spanish speakers, and target them with particular offers to suit their preferences and shopping habits.

For the fashion sector in particular, returning customers during the festive season are a critical source of revenue – our data shows that despite accounting for only 11% of sales during the Christmas shopping season, these customers account for 35% of revenue. But how can you create a loyal, returning customer base if you don’t even know what country they are in?

High-value international shoppers represent a tremendous opportunity for British fashion retailers. If they invest in understanding the behaviour and needs of these groups and provide experiences which influence the customer journey, retailers can build their audience of high-spend overseas customers who return to buy again and again – not just at Christmas, but all year round.  

This article originally appeared in Drapers. 


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