It may seem obvious, but it’s easy to get bogged down in the legal, operational, accounting and IP issues when entering the UK market (or any new market).
Our experience helping companies enter the UK market and design their market entry strategy tells us there are two key questions CEOs need to ask first.
The recent Brexit vote and the associated decline in the value of the British Pound Sterling to the US Dollar has reduced one of the main barriers to entering the UK market – cost.
The UK is one of Europe’s top performing economies. With a population of nearly 65 million potential customers in a geographical area about half the size of the state of California, it can be an extremely tempting stepping stone for companies looking to expand internationally.
What CEOs need to ask before entering the UK market:
1. How are our potential British customers different to our American ones? Does our value proposition translate? How do we reach our customers?
Given that we share a language, it’s easy to assume your customers in the UK are the same as your customers at home. Winston Churchill even coined the phrase “special relationship” in 1946 to describe our shared culture, economic and historical ties.
But, the reality is there are key differences in customer demographics and behaviour that can come as an expensive shock to American companies.
Understanding these differences is critical for getting your product offering right when you go-to-market.
For example, we recently worked with a client trying to launch a consumer package good product in UK supermarkets. In the USA, customers typically did a bi-weekly shop and liked to buy the product in bulk. They would put their shopping in the car, drive home and store it in the fridge.
Sounds simple enough.
But the problem was, in the UK customers behaved differently.
Particularly in London where space is a premium and customers don’t usually own a car. We found their potential customer tended to do small, frequently shops. It meant the big, bulk packaging they were using at home wouldn’t work for the UK consumer, particularly the ones who carried their shopping home. A huge proportion of customers also shop for their groceries online and had them delivered.
The value proposition needed to be different.
For the first time, their product needed to work online, not just on a store shelf.
They also found that even though we all speak the same language, they needed to tailor the packaging to speak to UK customers, where it’s common to use slightly different words and spellings. Some words have different meanings.
The way they communicated with their customers here needed adjustment.
2. What are our customer’s alternatives? Who are the competitors? Where is innovation happening? How do we position ourselves in the UK market?
In the same example our client was used to supplying hundreds of independent and chain supermarkets. They were surprised to discover there were only 5-6 key players in the supermarket industry nation-wide in the UK.
All with their own customer perceptions and propositions.
Getting the right partner was critical to maintaining their brand positioning.
There was also much more competition from well established European brands.
It’s also important to understand how your product or service will fit into the UK market. When you launched at home, your product might have disrupted the market. Will it do the same, or are there competitors doing the same thing? Does your pricing strategy still make sense given established players? Does your marketing make sense? Who are the influencers in the UK market?
You really need to understand what customers are doing now, who the players are, and how they are likely to respond to you entering the market. How are you going to convince customers who may not know your brand to give you a try?
Truly understanding what is happening in the UK market will allow you to position your product in a way that makes sense.
How we can help:
The Summerhill Group was created by a group of strategy and market intelligence consultants with significant experience helping companies enter the UK market.
We are market entry experts.
We work with clients in the USA, Canada and elsewhere to help them enter the UK market.
Clients choose us because we are market intelligence and strategy experts. Our focus is on helping clients really understand their customers, competitors and the marketplace.
We also help our clients find the right local partners. Whether distributors, agents, lawyers, accountants or other partners our services are designed to facilitate a smooth entry into the UK market.
Get in touch today to discuss your project.
Phone: +44 203 355 2060