Many of Australia’s superstar growth businesses have set their sights on the massive prize on offer in the US. But what do these businesses need to do to find awareness and customers in the land of opportunity?

With a population and economy 15 times the size of Australia, a common language and culture of embracing innovation, it’s easy to see why the US is a very attractive market for  a business eyeing its next phase of growth.

So why do we not hear about more Hollywood endings when our companies make the move across the Pacific?

Put simply, it’s different. The competition is intense – there are already 15 times as many small and medium enterprises operating in the US compared to Australia. It can be pretty overwhelming, and easy to simply throw your hands up and file it under ‘too hard’. 

But, recent inflation and economic disruption as well as a continued evolution in consumer attitudes to things like online shopping and brand purpose mean there is currently a window of opportunity that challenger brands can prise open – if they’re prepared to change up the way they speak to consumers. 

Understanding consumer habits

Digital is dominant in the US – an average American adult spends upwards of 8 hours on digital media every day, with 25% of that on smartphones[1]

And while there’s a huge mainstream media market in the US, which means there’s no shortage of premium content and streaming providers vying for attention, 41% of consumers are actually spending more time watching UGC than streaming content[2].

So when you’re planning your media, think about where your audiences can be found, because there are more routes to market, not all are the same as we have in Australia. Doing due diligence is really important.

It’s important to think about the opportunity to sell into the market. eCommerce is also booming and expected to make up more than 23% of all retail sales by 2025[3]. That removes a lot of barriers for launching into a market because physical shopfronts become less important. The US is also one of the top markets globally open to buying from overseas vendors. That’s a huge tick in the box.

Importantly, whilst ecommerce growth is slowing after the pandemic-fuelled growth it is still rising at a good rate, with online sales topping $1,000,000,000,000 (that’s a trillion dollars) for the first time in 2022.

Even taking a tiny part of that market is big business for any growth-minded company.

It is also worth noting that marketplaces (think Amazon, eBay, Etsy) are more dominant in the US than in Australia, with buyers more likely to purchase through these aggregators than direct from a retailer’s own site. That means thinking about how and where you’re pushing people to checkout when you’ve hooked them in with your advertising, and where you want to be listing to get the best exposure and returns.

However, while customers are more open to buying from vendors they may not be that familiar with they are more reliant on recommendations and reviews to justify making those purchases.

A survey by of US shoppers found just 5% of US shoppers never consult reviews, regardless of their purchase price. Importantly 26% said good reviews play the biggest role in influencing their purchase decision, above free shipping (22%), discounts (20%) or speed of delivery (18%).

Similar to reviews, recommendations are also a crucial part of the purchase decision making mix with Nielsen finding 92% of people trust word of mouth recommendations.

However, building that word of mouth network can take time, especially if you don’t have an established presence and want to scale quickly. A short-circuit brands have used is finding creators with deep connections to their audiences to establish these connections and provide trusted recommendations en masse.

A good example of this is Australian teeth whitening brand Hismile, which has rocketed to success by understanding the power of creator reviews to drive sales – working with everyone from local Aussie personality Christian Hull down under to influencer superstars like Kendall Jenner in the US for maximum exposure.  

At TikTok we’ve previously described this phenomenon as the ‘Infinite Loop’, because brands are increasingly tapping into this method of creating and recruiting new advocates who will in turn influence their own networks in your favour.

As is shown in the example above, it’s a great, cost-effective way of establishing credibility quickly in a new market.

Lastly, be aware of seasonality – it’s massively powerful in driving sales in the US. Whilst the end of year holiday shopping events (think Cyber Monday, Black Friday etc) are still gaining traction in Australia, they’re well-established mass-shopping times for US brands, and non-negotiable times to be pushing hard to find new consumers for growth brands.

Cyber Week alone drew more than $38 billion in spending across five days, according to an Adobe report, whilst that period through to Christmas saw growth of more than 4% year on year, despite the slowing in the overall US economy.

Getting results

There’s a lot to it, but here are a few top thoughts for brands looking to crack the US in 2023:

  • Use local voices to connect with US consumers – these endorsements and word of mouth are great drivers for sales;
  • Don’t be intimidated by trying to stay on the pulse of the latest creative trends, fundamental creative principles of effective advertising hold true even on new platforms
  • Understanding the market – just because you can ship somewhere doesn’t mean you’ll instantly have demand
  • Patience – stay consistent in your messaging and be resilient, overnight success stories are often years in the making.

Ted Shelton is head of growth at TikTok.

[1] eMarketer, ‘US Daily Media Time Spent’ 2022

[2] Deloitte, ‘Digital Media Trends’ 2022

[3] eMarketer, ‘Retail ecommerce sales in the US’ 2022