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What’s The Difference Between UK and US Consumers?


What’s The Difference Between UK and US Consumers? We are all just people at the end of the day. Most of us like to shop online or offline or both but are there any actual geodemographic shopping traits we can utilise for our marketing campaigns?  You just know that’s going to be a yes….

Marketing Week recently published a great article on the differences between UK and US consumers based on data from the Visual Data guys.  It suggests for example that a US customer is more likely to respond positively to an emotive campaign whereas a UK customer is less likely to due to being less openly caring and emotional.  Hearts and flowers for the Americans and no nonsense Mary Poppins for the brits, feels about right.

Mintel have also got a useful report titled British Lifestyles 2018 – A snapshot of the marketplace based on the actions, needs and interests of the British consumer. (Note: they do want your email address etc first).  Not so gloomy, it says that the UK consumer has racked up a spend of 1.25 Trillion in 2017 and expect that to rise to £1.44 Trillion by 2020.

Spending and Politics

What we do know is that there is much uncertainty in the minds of the UK consumer right now. This is of course thanks to Brexit and the difficult decisions that are being made around trade, rules, legislation and other such excitement.

The UK consumer mindset is possibly being painted in a negative light on the world stage.. bit like the child in the playground who’s got some stuff going on at home. All the other countries are like, ‘they are so negative,uncertain, afraid, don’t say anything or you’ll upset them’. We say, twoddle! If you know anything about the brits it’s that they are a much tougher bunch than all that, and no amount of yawn worthy politics will get them down.

The US Consumer

But what about the US consumer, are they all about spend spend spend now that Mr T has made America great again? Do they want/love british brands?

There are many different customer traits that marketers can pay attention to that will and should impact their international campaign strategies, let’s have a look at some of they key differences in these two nationalities and what that could mean in the real world in terms of a campaign message:

  • More emotional and responsive to emotive campaigns
  • Less concerned with affordability and finance
  • See failure or endings as opportunities/a positive
  • More likely to impulse buy
  • More self confident – not so much improvement required
  • More open about sex and relationships – all about the shared experiences

US Health and Beauty

In a recent study by BigCommerce they report that 34% of shoppers have purchased beauty items offline at marketplaces, 31% at large retailers, 29% online and 25% at category-specific online stores. Women are more likely to shop online than men and are more likely to respond to email marketing and find and use discount coupons.  The market has seen growth in 2018 according to Statista of 15% year on year.  Last year, according to Mintel, 40% of US makeup users are frustrated by products that don’t match their skin tone. 56% of US shoppers say that they have stopped buying from brands they believe are unethical.


25% of clothing sales will be completed online by 2022 Statista say. US consumers are more likely to buy clothes from large marketplace retailers like Amazon, same day delivery is a real pull factor in that.  Americans love a good deal and 65% will be swayed to buy online over an offline store if the price is better. America shoppers love filters on clothing websites that help narrow down searches, product photography is equally important in the buying decision. Women are more likely than men to buy online and will research online first before often buying in store.

Food and Drink

Although often seen as an unhealthy nation, Americans are becoming concerned with healthy eating and drinking with a reported all time low in sales of sugary drinks (even low calorie versions) and an increase in flavored waters and healthier alternatives.  The US consumer is increasingly taking care over food and drink labelling and demands transparency on ingredients.  Americans love to try new things, and flavour and price are important.  Wine si on te increase in the UK as a preferred beverage but as a nation, they are not as big alcohol drinkers as the british (and definitely not as big drinkers as the Russians).

The UK Consumer

  • More practical than emotional and more likely to respond to simple, fact based campaigns
  • Concerned and anxious with their financial future – more savvy online
  • Feel failure is a negative – but very stoic in adversity
  • Less likely to impulse buy – unless there is an amazing offer
  • More open to learning and innovation and self improvement – ideas seekers
  • Less open about sex and relationships – all about the long term

We’ve picked 3 key retail areas to look at below:

UK Health and Beauty

In the 2017 report, Mintel said that womens skincare products are more likely to see growth in 2018, it states that 64% of women say that wearing makeup makes them feel more confident. 56% of Men however said that they felt it was vain to spend so much time on appearance, but haircare is ok and continues to see growth.  Both british men and women care about health and natural ingredients and this is an opportunity for brands to be more open about how their products are made and how natural they are.


Brits will buy clothes online, in fact 66% have, and 63% of them want to see a more diverse range of models used by brands. Mintel estimates that the male fashion market will grow by 17% between this year and 2020, so lots of opportunities for brands in fashion. Bear in mind, the UK consumer wants a reasonable delivery (not always very next day), and an easy and simple way to return items. US brands would do well to use a UK distributor to manage this process and the customer service of course is key, the US are very good at this!

Food and Drink

Ok so the brits are pretty obsessed with health and cutting down on sugary drinks and food, it’s a thing.  They do not want artificial ingredients, or in fcat any ingredients that do not sound like actual food.  As far as alcohol goes, the UK consumers are cutting down on the whole and spending less.. they are focusing more on quality not quantity and so mass producers be aware,  we’ll be expecting Coca Cola to rebrand any minute.. oh wait.  With regards to food, people are eating in more and due to this, there is an expected increase in fuel spending by 13% over the next 5 years.  Meat free and Gluten Free are the buzz words,

Market Research

Clearly there are bits and pieces here that I’ve found from different research reports and I urge you to consider doing some deeper research yourselves.  It’s a known fact that a customer who feels a brand understands them and tailors content and advertising to their demographics, personality, shopping habits etc will respond in a more positive light. One of the first things we recommend undertaking when we work with a new brand is market research and we use this as well as available local data to help build the perfect target audience as well as understand the existing one.

Conduct your own research with your existing customer base, polls, surveys, focus groups or use social channels and strategies like ‘look-a-like’ targeting to talk to  your ‘not yet customers’.

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