Emerging markets: The untapped opportunity for UK e-commerce


Strategies for UK e-commerce success in untapped emerging markets.


In the ever-evolving landscape of retail, UK-based e-commerce businesses are constantly seeking ways to maintain their growth trajectories. Having established a firm foothold in domestic and traditional international markets, these savvy businesses are starting to cast their eyes on a new frontier - emerging markets. As the world becomes increasingly interconnected, the allure of expanding into untapped territories has become too significant to ignore. This article explores the untapped opportunities that emerging markets hold for UK e-commerce businesses and offers insights into cultural differences, logistics, and more.

The allure of emerging markets

Emerging markets, characterised by rapid economic growth, rising consumer spending power, and increasing internet penetration, present a tantalising proposition for UK e-commerce businesses. These markets, often located in regions like Southeast Asia, Latin America, and parts of Africa, are witnessing a surge in consumer demand and a growing middle class hungry for online shopping experiences. According to recent studies, emerging markets are expected to contribute significantly to global e-commerce growth in the coming years, making them an attractive destination for expansion.

Opportunities and challenges in emerging markets

Emerging markets offer a host of opportunities for UK e-commerce businesses. The sheer size of these markets presents a vast pool of potential customers, eager to explore new products and experiences. As internet access continues to expand, consumers in emerging markets are increasingly embracing online shopping, creating a fertile ground for e-commerce growth. Moreover, the changing consumer behaviours and preferences in these markets provide an opportunity for UK businesses to adapt and tailor their offerings to cater to local tastes and preferences.

However, entering and thriving in emerging markets is not without its challenges. Cultural differences play a crucial role and necessitate an understanding of local customs, preferences, and purchasing habits. It's essential to invest in market research and localisation efforts to ensure that products and marketing campaigns resonate with the target audience. Additionally, logistical complexities, including supply chain management, last-mile delivery, and payment options, pose challenges that must be addressed to deliver a seamless customer experience. Finally, regulatory requirements and local competition demand careful navigation and strategic planning.

Case study: Success in China's emerging market - Farfetch

A prime example of a UK-based e-commerce business that has triumphed in an emerging market is Farfetch. This luxury fashion platform has witnessed remarkable success in expanding into China's emerging luxury e-commerce market. Instead of adopting a one-size-fits-all approach, Farfetch recognised the importance of understanding the local market and forming strategic partnerships.

Farfetch's key to success lay in their partnership with JD.com, one of China's largest e-commerce platforms. This collaboration enabled Farfetch to leverage JD.com's deep understanding of the Chinese market, extensive logistics network, and vast customer base. By tapping into JD.com's local expertise, Farfetch was able to navigate cultural nuances, overcome logistical hurdles, and gain access to a broader customer pool. Their success story demonstrates the importance of establishing strategic alliances with local players to unlock the full potential of emerging markets.

Navigating the new terrains: A guide for UK e-commerce

For UK e-commerce businesses looking to venture into emerging markets, a strategic and tailored approach is paramount. Here are some key considerations to navigate these new terrains successfully:

Leverage the support of UK Trade and Investment (UKTI)

The UKTI offers invaluable resources and assistance to UK businesses exploring international markets. They provide market intelligence, advice on local regulations, and access to networks and contacts that can facilitate market entry and growth. Engaging with the UKTI can provide valuable guidance and support throughout the expansion process.

Conduct thorough market research

Gain a deep understanding of the target market, including consumer preferences, behaviours, and purchasing power. Identify market gaps and opportunities that align with your business offerings.

Localisation is key

Adapt your products, services, and marketing strategies to resonate with the local audience. Language, cultural references, and payment options should be tailored to match the preferences of the target market.

Build local partnerships

Collaborate with local players, such as e-commerce platforms, logistics providers, or influencers, to tap into their expertise, networks, and resources. These partnerships can help navigate cultural nuances, streamline logistics, and build trust with local consumers.

Invest in logistics and infrastructure

Establish a robust supply chain and optimise last-mile delivery to deliver timely and reliable product distribution. Explore partnerships with local logistics providers to overcome operational challenges.

Mitigate risks

Assess and mitigate potential risks associated with entering emerging markets, such as regulatory hurdles, political instability, or currency fluctuations. A thorough risk management strategy will help protect your business interests.

Adapt and iterate

Be agile and responsive to market feedback. Continuously analyse performance metrics, consumer behaviour, and market trends to refine your strategies and offerings accordingly.


Emerging markets represent a vast untapped opportunity for UK e-commerce businesses. While challenges exist, the potential rewards are significant for those willing to navigate these new terrains strategically. By understanding cultural nuances, forging local partnerships, and tailoring offerings to meet the needs of emerging market consumers, UK e-commerce businesses can position themselves for growth and establish a strong presence in these markets. The success of Farfetch in China serves as an inspiring example of how businesses can leverage partnerships and adapt their strategies to thrive in emerging markets.

Want to improve performance, scale the business and prepare for investment in your tech business?

Sign up for our latest insights