As Europe's largest e-commerce market and ranked 3rd in the world behind the US and China, the UK offers international brands that decide to launch there a unique opportunity to grow their addressable market (TAM) in less than two months, despite Brexit!
With online sales at an all-time high of $169 billion in 2021 and expected to reach $368 billion by 2024, there has never been a better time for Direct to Consumer (D2C) brands to tackle the UK market.
Although the UK market is relatively competitive and international brands have to overcome some barriers to entry, the opportunity and benefits are real, and the goals are achievable if you are ready! That's why we've compiled this guide with all the information and steps you need to take to start selling your products in the UK.
What you will discover in this guide :
As an international brand (i.e. one that is foreign to the UK market), the first step to successfully establishing and selling in the UK is to understand and grasp the legal requirements.
Without completing these tasks, it will be extremely difficult - if not impossible - for you to operate correctly. As most of them depend on UK government institutions, they are relatively time-consuming to set up, so we recommend you deal with them first!
🏦 70％ of consumers are more likely to buy if it is guaranteed that they will not have to pay additional fees or taxes after checkout.
💰 88％ of consumers consider delivery costs critical in their purchasing decision.
Source : Logistyx
⏰ For 83％ the delivery time is among the most influential purchase criteria.
Source : Logistyx
You know it now. The British are used to a fast and reliable delivery experience. To meet their expectations you can choose between international shipping or shipping locally from the UK.
1. You will need your GB EORI numbers and GB VAT to ship to the UK from abroad. These will save you time and speed up the paperwork once you're ready to go.
2. Always ensure that the customs documents are completed correctly and enclosed with the packages to avoid unnecessary delays.
🇬🇧 Shipping from the UK
You now have a good overview of the shipping alternatives for your brand and their main pros and cons.
Given the customer's expectations, the market size and the opportunity it presents to your brand, we recommend that you opt for shipping locally from and to the UK.
🚨 Applying for your EORI number is a priority: it takes 8 to 12 weeks to get it (hence the title of this playbook)
What is the GB EORI number?
EORI stands for Economic Operators Registration and Identification number. The GB EORI is a unique reference number issued by a customs authority to identify economic operators within the UK.
The GB EORI appears on all customs declarations and is required to import goods into the UK (stock transfer).
If you do not already have a Government Portal account, you can create one when you apply.
🚨 Obtaining a UK VAT number will be essential if you decide to ship from the UK or France. It takes 8 to 12 weeks to obtain it
Get a UK VAT number from the UK Government Gateway. You will need it to submit your tax declarations to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). The non-established foreign trader must complete and send to the administration form VAT1 and its annexes.
VAT applies in certain cases:
Sales between 0 and 135£
You collect the taces and send the TVA (20%) to the British fiscal authorities.
The TVA is collected on delivery to the customer.
Your business can start selling once it has acquired a GB EORI number and a GB VAT (Economic Operators Registration and Identification) number, required to import goods into England.
1. Create an account on the UK Government Gateway (here) to get started.
2. Get a GB VAT number from your Government Gateway account. You will need this to submit your tax declarations to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). The non-established foreign trader must complete and send to the administration form VAT1 and its annexes.
⚠️ Be careful to get it in advance. It takes 8 to 12 weeks to obtain it.
3. Get a GB EORI (Economic Operator Registration and Identification) number by applying here, to import goods into the UK (stock transfer). If you don't already have a government portal ID, you can create one when you apply.
⚠️ Be careful to get it in advance. It takes 8 to 12 weeks to obtain it.
4. Mandatory administrative declarations
With the UK no longer enjoying the benefits of an EU member, customs fees and delivery times will be directly affected by Brexit.
📄 CN23 or 📄 Single Administrative Document attached instead of the CN23 to every order valued over 8 0000€
🚛 Proof of delivery
If you ship with Bigblue, all documents are generated automatically. No additional steps to ship your orders.
By shipping locally from the UK, you can offer your customers a shopping experience that matches their expectations: fast delivery, no hidden costs, and certainly more environmentally friendly and less expensive for your brand.
The UK requirements for opening your e-commerce business have been simplified as much as possible, whether administrative, fiscal or legal.
1. Getting your GB EORI number: we emphasise the importance of this task. Without it, you will not be able to sell in the UK!
2. The registration procedure is simple. It can be done online and is effective within 24 hours if you have chosen the Private Limited Company (Ltd) status. The time to set up a company in England is 13 days, compared with an average of 32 days in Europe.
3. Once you have obtained your GB VAT number, you must send in your VAT declaration. These reports are seven lines long.
Report VAT quarterly: businesses must report the amount of output VAT and input VAT to HMRC by submitting a VAT return.
Filing a Making Tax Digital (MTD) report annually: required for annual income over £85,000. Concerned businesses must submit their tax records to HMRC digitally (versus the old method via HMRC's Government Gateway).
4. Importing or transferring your stock to the UK: we explain everything on day 17 of this guide.
To set up your business in the UK:
If you have additional questions, we invite you to take contact Pramex. They will assist you in everything related to creating and managing your foreign subsidiaries or during acquisition operations.
📲 Book a meeting with Mr. Radia from Pramex
For your taxes declarations:
HMRC provides a list of MTD-enabled software providers.
Avalara offers cloud-based tax compliance solutions. This tool allows you to automate your VAT declarations, MTD reports and the calculation of your customs fees.
📊 84% of UK shoppers say that the carriers offered influence their decision to order from a particular online shop.
Because of the high delivery fees, half of British consumers have never purchased online from an international brand. They prefer to buy from marketplaces or e-commerce brands that deliver their packages locally, free of charge and quickly.
📊 55% of UK consumers named Royal Mail their preferred carrier, an ultra-fast and convenient delivery experience.
📊 UPS is the preferred carrier for express delivery in the UK.
Since Brexit, stock imports, also known as stock transfers, require customs declarations. We have prepared a checklist detailing how to export your products to the UK.
You will not have to clear customs on every order if you ship from a warehouse located in the UK.
If you work with Bigblue you have two alternatives to bring your stock to the UK:
1️. Make two separate deliveries from your supplier to our warehouse in France and our UK warehouse.
2️. Make one delivery from your supplier to our warehouse in France, then use Kuehne+Nagel to deliver your stock destined for Bigblue's UK warehouse.
In both cases, Bigblue will create a differentiated inventory for each warehouse that will allow you to track your inventory accurately.
📊 47% of British consumers have bought online at least six times in the last three months.
Source : BCI Info
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 60% of British shoppers have changed their consumption habits.
For the most part, they have favoured online shopping from brands established in the UK to benefit from same-day or next-day delivery, free delivery and easy returns policy democratised by Amazon and ASOS.
At Bigblue, we are committed to helping e-commerce brands grow internationally with a fast and custom delivery experience.
Our historical data combined with artificial intelligence allows us to accurately determine when an order will be delivered, increasing conversion rates for merchants.
Half of the British shopping from non-UK brands abandon their cart because of one of these reasons:
🛒 In 2022, 69% of British consumers abandoned their shopping baskets because of excessive delivery prices.
🛒 73% of Brits have already added an item to their shopping cart to benefit from free delivery.
The British are used to a reliable and efficient delivery experience. By offering free and fast delivery, you can increase the conversion rate of your product pages.
+ 34% CRO with Bigblue’s Fast-tags
Using an A/B test, we have observed that buyers seeing a Fast Tag convert +34% more and are encouraged to spend more (+4% cart value), resulting in a +37% revenue per visiting buyer.
The example of AZLI Cosmetics
⚡️Azli Cosmetics displays precise delivery dates on their product pages using Bigblue’s Fast-tags.
📊 Consumers aged 18-34 are serial returners - over 33% admit to frequently returning items.
Source : Fashion Network
The British have a reputation for buying online and returning their products.
This habit has been reinforced by the growth of e-commerce fashion brands (37% report an increase in the number of returns).
Merchants normally fear returns, and they are seen as a cost centre and hard to track.
At Bigblue, we transform returns into a growth driver. We increase the Lifetime Value (LTV) of our merchants' customers with a white-label frictionless returns portal.
Our portal encourages buyers to choose store credit instead of a cash refund. Buyers can start a return request at any time, reducing the pressure on the merchant’s support teams and providing an overall better post-purchase experience
👉 Discover Bigblue's returns portal
📊 63% of online shoppers in the UK read customer opinions before making an online purchase.
Source : Statista
Reviews are a primary source of information in the buying consideration stage.
5 good reviews increase the likelihood of a purchase by a staggering 270%. Companies with at least five high-quality product reviews have a tremendously high possibility of getting people to purchase their products.
That’s why getting 5-star reviews from UK clients will help you establish trust in the new market.
At Bigblue, we enable brands to improve customer experience, measure customer satisfaction and generate positive reviews.
A poor delivery experience can shatter the customers' trust in your brand. Bigblue allows you to measure buyer satisfaction and immediately alerts you if there are any problems.
Bigblue’s average delivery satisfaction is 94,3% (vs an average of 77% for e‑commerce).
👉 Discover the Bigblue package tracking experience
📊 In the UK, the volume of Buy Now, Pay Later purchases could grow by 50% in 2022 (vs. 2021) and reach $30 billion.
Source : BusinessWire
📊 33% of international visitors will not even consider making a purchase if their local currency is not suggested.
Source : Shopify Blog
The "Buy Now, Pay Later" trend shows no signs of slowing down in the UK. With this financing alternative, British consumers have embarked on a new mode of consumption.
🛒 +30% to 45% increase in the average order value for purchases paid for with Klarna.
Gymshark allows clients to pay for their purchases in 3X without fees.
Three payment solutions that we recommend:
1. Shopify Payments ****the easiest way to process payments in the UK
2️. Mollie facilitates international transactions
3️. Scalapay allows you to offer your UK customers payment in 3x or 4x, without fees
Shipping to the UK also means creating a new online shop and adapting your marketing campaigns (social media advertising strategy, email campaigns, and influencers included)!
📊 73% of products purchased online by UK consumers come from local online shops.
Source : BCI
You’ll need to create a new online shop.
✨ The benefits of a UK-based shop:
✨ The steps to localise your e-commerce:
Bigblue integrates with leading CMS and marketplaces to automate your logistics, simplify customer support ticket management and ship packages with peace of mind. Bigblue also allows you to centralise all shipments for as many shops as you need into the same platform.
📊 65 % des acheteurs en ligne préfèrent un contenu dans leur langue.
Source : Shopify Plus
You can use Weglot to translate your website automatically.
Then you can hire a freelancer on Fiverr to adapt your copy to the UK market.
The UK is one of the most competitive e-commerce markets in the world. Get inspired by the campaigns of the best local brands, like Gymshark or Chilly's Bottles!
Don’t forget your email campaigns, and your parcel tracking emails.
Bigblue is the only European fulfilment solution integrated with Klaviyo.
We send Bigblue data to Klaviyo so merchants can use delivery-related events in their email flows. As a bonus, all your parcel tracking emails are automatically translated:
• Parcel delivered: send a product usage guide.
• Satisfaction survey with Trustpilot: only to satisfied customers.
• Returned parcel: ask for additional details, remind to use the gift card, and stop an email loop if the package is returned.
Developing your brand globally requires more budget for both your stocks and marketing.
If you have someone to help you with the market research or the costing of the business plan, you will have to pay a fee to the service providers.
As mentioned above, adapting your website is a fundamental step. The technical development of your site, and the optimisation of the UX, without forgetting to produce new content (product categories, product pages, etc.), are costly.
You will have the necessary inventory information to develop your online business through the business plan, projected turnover, and cash flow budget.
We have prepared a list of the types of inventory you will have to deal with and finance:
With good inventory management, you can handle sales peaks, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday Sales. This will stop your business from losing money. 👋
When you launch your brand in a new country, paid advertising will help you establish an online reach on social media.
Create a UGC and influence strategy in your new market.
At Bigblue, we provide fulfilment services for all B2B and B2C e-commerce orders: for retailers, resellers, your own boutiques, pop-ups etc. Brands like Dermalogica, From Future and Unbottled trust us with their omnichannel deliveries.
Wayflyer is an inventory and marketing expense funding solution that offers to finance your business from $10K to $20M at favourable interest rates, in less than 5 days.
Your business is screened once you register and connect your platforms, to receive the most suitable financing offers for your e-commerce:
4 steps to integrate Wayflyer
1️. Contact Wayflyer
2️. Connect your shopping and advertising platforms to Wayflyer securely.
3️. Send confidential bank details and proof of identity.
4️. Receive funds in your account within 1-3 days of signing the contract (depending on how long it takes your bank to receive the funds).
You are almost ready! If you requested your EORI GB number and GB VAT number on day 1, you will receive them soon!