What Brexit Means for Ecommerce: A UK Perspective

| By: Alex Shepherd

For those of us who were in the UK during the build-up to the Brexit vote, you could be forgiven for thinking that all international trade may die and we will be plunged back into the dark ages. This is clearly an extreme view, but also a message the “Remain” camp relied heavily upon. Now that the country has voted, many may be wondering how much truth there is in this. The question for me is: What does the exit mean for online retailers in the UK, and more broadly, the UK economy?

Flexibility is going to be key for retailers hoping to succeed in this brave new post-Brexit world. UK retailers have traditionally been quite adept at thinking beyond our own shores and growing customer bases internationally. We will likely see the biggest wins from the retailers who act quickly, expanding into new territories and creating an offering which is relevant to that local market. The old turn of phrase “Think global, act local” springs to mind here.

There are already many great examples of UK retailers, like Boohoo for example, who have ensured that they have the infrastructure to quickly spin up new sites for new territories. Many are turning to open source platforms such as Magento, which will enable them to make use of third party technologies, sometimes reducing need for costly custom development, not to mention reducing time to market.

We saw a significant turning point in retail around a decade ago, when very established names such as British Home Stores felt the pain of not embracing ecommerce. I believe that we may again see some brands emerge to challenge for pole position as they quickly embrace the new markets that are opening up. Clearly there is a great deal of talk about high levels of inflation and there will be some short term challenges. But I do genuinely see this as a real time of opportunity, and to the victors will doubtless come the spoils.

As for the UK economy as a whole, my view has been that while we have always had and will continue to have a strong trading relationship with our closest neighbours, we will find new opportunities. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been very vocal on her views toward the UK leaving the EU. While she is encouraging all who will listen to take a strong stance, she is still talking about giving us access to many of the benefits we saw as a member state, provided we agree to other conditions. It is becoming increasingly clear to me that a sensible position from Prime Minister Theresa May and good negotiations could mean that our exit does not have the dramatic economic repercussions we first expected.

That said, one of the things I always found exciting about the possible exit is that we may have a renewed vigour and freedom when looking at trading deals with other states outside of the EU. Mr. Trump developed a close alignment with Mr. Farage during the campaign, and has seemingly put Theresa May toward the front of the queue when it came to meeting other world leaders. Hopefully this can result in a trade agreement that will benefit all.

Perhaps of equal importance will be other markets such as Australia, Canada, India, China and possibly even Russia. The exit from the EU may make it quicker to reach mutually beneficial new agreements with these territories and create a world of opportunity for international trade. Ecommerce merchants in the UK who are poised and ready to enter these markets may profit from these new opportunities.

Questions about expanding your ecommerce operation internationally? Get in touch with Alex at alexs@corra.com.

Header image via PinnacleDigest.com

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Alex Shepherd is EMEA Commercial Director at Corraa New York, Los Angeles and London based digital commerce agency creating unified commerce experiences for fashion, lifestyle and beauty. Corra’s ecommerce strategy, design and technology professionals are trusted by retailers of all sizes to implement and support the Magento Enterprise and SAP hybris platforms.

Corra is a digital agency creating transformative commerce experiences for fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands. With headquarters in New York, Los Angeles and London, Corra provides strategically led creative and technology solutions to a growing global market.