The Oban Blog

USA: Excellent e-commerce opportunity for UK brands. How can your business take advantage?

The e-commerce market in the US has been growing steadily for the past decade, with B2C retail sales online topping $396 billion in 2016. By the year 2020, experts predict this figure will almost double to $684 million.  In the US in particular, holiday season often sees an enormous boost in spending, with $2.5 billion being spent online in November and December alone in 2015.

The number of internet users has grown from 121.87 million in 2000 to 286.94 million in 2016. In 2015, Ofcom asked 1,009 users aged 18 and over how they preferred to access the internet at home. 53% said they preferred to use smartphones & tablets, while 56% predominantly used PC or laptop. 1% said they used other mediums such as smart TVs.

Due to the sheer size of the US, logistics and delivery times are a key concern for many businesses and consumers. In 2016, only 6% of consumers opted for next day delivery. More than 42% of customers opted for an economy 5-7 day delivery service (now very uncommon in the UK).

Digital wallets on the rise, but credit/debit cards still dominate

A study carried out in 2016 asked over 1,000 respondents from different age brackets how they preferred to pay for goods and services online.  12% said that PayPal was their method of choice, while 25% preferred to use a debit card. Credit cards are still the number one method of payment, with 47% using them to buy shop online.  It’s also worth noting that other digital wallet services such as Apple Pay and Google Wallet are gaining more traction in the USA than here in the UK, following closely behind PayPal.

“We are spoiled by Amazon Prime which gets us most of our purchases from Amazon in 2 days or less. They even deliver on Sundays. Generally, people prefer to use credit or debit cards to make their online purchases because it is quick and easy. Also, more and more people are buying things from their mobile phones. Many of the newer smartphones have large screens so it’s easy to look at pictures and read reviews.” – Leo,  Oban Local In-Market Expert (LIME), United States

Black Friday and Cyber Monday break records in 2016

Calendar events are alway a good route into market, but few of them center around retail as openly as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In 2016, Black Friday broke online sales records in the US, with $3.34bn being spent online – that’s a 17.7% increase on sales last year.   Business thinktank, Qubit,  analysed 50 million visits to US retail websites and found  that traffic on Black Friday increased by 220% compared to a normal working day. Clearly an excellent time for brands to capitalise online and gain some exposure with a good deal.

UK brands very well perceived with a strong and ready foundation

By far the most popular non-native brand to make it big in the US is Swedish fashion company H&M.  They have 200 stores nationwide and 71% of American consumers are aware of their presence on American soil, however they don’t have much of an impact online in the US fashion market. UK retailer Topshop only has 4 physical stores but still manages to reach 20% awareness among the American public. This is good news for retailers looking to operate exclusively online, and is proof that e-commerce is a viable way into the market.

Many British brands are already highly regarded in the USA. Prominent UK brands such as Missguided, Boohoo and Jack Wills were among the top ‘brands to watch’ according to a survey on US consumer perception. Superdry were also seen as a strong up and coming brand which embodied ‘Britishness’ – something that’s very popular in the US market.  Jack Wills even went as far as creating a strapline specifically for the US market that read ‘Fabulously British’.

  • Be British – Don’t be afraid to celebrate ‘britishness’ and use your identity as a UK brand.
  • Logistics – know your competition and their delivery/payment options,  as US citizens are less likely to purchase cross border.
  • Look beyond PayPal – Unlike the UK, Apple Pay and Google Pay are following close behind.


Contact us today to see how we can help your business explore new markets like the United States.