Geekmeet – Cross-Pond Thinking, Best Practices of US E-Commerce Strategy

The American dream – the goal of almost every British brand. But breaking into the US market is notoriously tricky and history is littered with the biggest household names (Tesco and M&S to name but two) who’ve gone west with grand ambitions only to see their dreams end in failure.

E-commerce has removed many barriers to entry but US retail remains still extremely complex, with myriad platforms, channels and tools on offer. With this is mind for Piper’s virtual GeekMeet, we invited three speakers who have developed and delivered US strategies across the full customer journey. Attended by over 80 founders and senior marketeers, it was the second in the series focusing on global ecommerce.

The pandemic prevented us from being all together in one room but it did have one advantage: Paul Taylor, Global Digital Director of Omorovicza Cosmetics, and Kunal Damani, COO at Monica Vinader, joined us from the UK while Ezra Chasser, Director of ECommerce Marketing at Wander Beauty, was able to share his experiences live from New York.

They each brought their different and valuable perspectives to the subject, but there were some common themes. Here are 15 of their tips on how to boost the chances of success as you enter into or grow your US e-commerce brand:

On brand
It’s not only useful but almost essential to have someone on the ground to act as a filter for how your brand is coming across to the US public, so you’re not seen as ‘just playing the British game’ from afar.

Keep the Britishness but regionalise the messaging, so you don’t misjudge the sensitivities of your US customers.

US customers are more receptive to emojis than their UK counterparts. They also don’t mind colour and ‘fluffier language’ – within reason.

Hold on to your brand values and tread carefully when it comes to distributor or fulfilment partners.

On marketing
Consider using localised paid social marketing but keep hold of creative and brand to ensure there’s no deviation from your core messages.

Online retail partners can be both a great way of generating awareness and keeping down CPAs.

The Amazon US site is a useful channel for revenue driving and economics but not for customer acquisition. Even if they love your product and buy it consistently on Amazon, you’re unlikely to convert them into loyal direct to consumer customers.

Seed lead generation campaigns and brand awareness ads before going through the process of starting to actually sell product. Test relentlessly and learn. Then you’ll be in a much stronger position if/when you do finally decide to flick the switch.

Unless you’re willing to spend £4-5K a month on paid search social, you’re probably not going to give it the chance to gain traction, so it may be smarter to deploy funds elsewhere.

Test and learn. Keep everything simple. And follow demand – whether you see it through a Kickstarter campaign or a spike in web traffic.

Consider seasonality of promotion by individual states and also by climate. This applies particularly to clothing or outdoor brands. It goes without saying that the US is vast and contains a number of different climates (and three time zones) across one country. You can use this to your advantage from a marketing perspective – or forget it at your peril.

On delivery
In the UK, we’re obsessed with fast delivery. US customers don’t share that obsession. So don’t worry if you can’t ship for a few days. The key caveat is to set expectations. Some suggested putting banners on the website to warn customers about potential delays. Far better to under-promise and overdeliver than the reverse.

Shipping from coast to coast in the US may seem like a good idea but doing it direct from the UK is likely to be cheaper and just as efficient.

On customers
There were differing views on how loyal US customers can be, but it was agreed that they can be hard to please and quick to complain. Consider some sort of scheme to make customers come back to your site rather than go elsewhere or to Amazon.

Finally, always ask the American consumer, whether an influencer or advocate, to tell you what they think your brand stands for. ‘What do you think about our brand? How would you describe us?’ Learn from their impressions and insert them, where appropriate, into your marketing communications.

Many thanks to our speakers for their valuable insights. To anyone with their eye on the US, good luck in turning your American dream into reality!