Posted: Tue 10th Dec 2019
The Travelwrap Company creates wraps made of high-quality cashmere in one of Scotland's leading mills. They've leveraged their Scottish heritage to fuel an impressive export growth.
Niamh Barker founded the business in 2007 and is now selling to 22 countries. We spoke to Baker about identifying export markets, personalisation and building the US business.
Choosing the right export markets
You forget how much treacle you walk through in the early days. We started exporting in 2012 when we moved from B2B to B2C. There was a trickle of American orders then, but today the US is our biggest audience outside the UK.
We decided to focus on international ecommerce in 2014-2015. The growth of our UK business online has been good, but overseas has been exceptional - our US revenue grew 440% in the first year and 107% last year.
You could just take a scattergun approach, but you get completely distracted. It's important to keep your eye on the ball. When you start looking at new markets, the English-speaking ones like Australia and Canada seem obvious. We thought Canada was low-hanging fruit. But they speak French too, the population isn't that big and the taxes and duties are high, so you need to look carefully at the audience you're targeting.
We thought about dipping our toes into Europe too. We were going to put up a German website, but decided it was better to keep doing what we're doing. And I'd rather not tear up £20 notes getting into China. There are a lot of people in America who have never heard of the company, so we've concentrated on doing what we're good at. When we're ready, we'll bring people to the table that can help.
Creating a great brand
The heritage label is proof of quality. It's got a stronger resonance in the US than the UK, which is why our export sales are strong. There is a Made in Scotland logo on our website and when you click through, there are three pages about how it's made and about me. A lot of people like to know who they're buying from, so we do videos of me talking about the product.
Localisation is important. The websites are geo-targeted by country, so it feels a bit more personal. We've found Americans buy different colours - they like their tans and more neutral colours. The language on the American site is all bespoke and the principal dimensions are in imperial.
Once you've done one website and have a template it's easier. The next stage is tweaking the platform for the different locations and VAT. It's not a vast expense.
You can spend a lot of money on digital marketing and not get a lot back. It's very flattering because you see the exposure numbers. You think you know how to find someone in Boston who's got money to spend, but it's a science. You have to be really careful that it's evidence based. There's a lot of smoke and mirrors in paid social, so you have to be very data driven and look at the results.
We do Facebook and Pay Per Click advertising, which compliment each other. Facebook also gives you a lot of brand awareness too.
We get quite a few customers in the chat room. There are some phone calls, which can come at awkward times if they're from the US. It's all handled by me in the evenings and weekends, and we use a call handling service.
Our returns and pricing policy
We didn't include taxes and duties at first. Our product is quite high-end, with an average basket order of around £225. Customers prefer to pay a landed price, they don't want to be surprised with unknown fees. It's one of the biggest barriers to a sale.
We offer free shipping and returns. We get less than 4% back and most of them are exchanges. We made the decision to pick up the expense of returns a while ago. When we started offering free returns, we thought people would buy multiples and send some back, but they haven't.