UK’s small e-tailers looking beyond Europe to boost exports

UK’s small e-tailers looking beyond Europe to boost exports

Small online UK retailers feel “confident” about looking beyond Europe to find new markets in which to build on their existing international success, according to a Royal Mail study. Royal Mail’s annual tracker on UK SME e-tailers found that more than half (56%) aim to increase international sales in both new and existing markets in 2016.

Australasia has seen the most significant increase in interest as an export destination: 23% of small online retailers believe it holds the greatest opportunity for export sales growth, compared to just 5% last year.

Asia has also increased in importance as a target export destination: 26% believe it holds significant sales opportunities, up from 12% last year.

Europe does, however, remain the main target for exports: 48% of small online retailers are aiming to sell their products in the Eurozone in 2016 compared to 30% in 2015.

Royal Mail added that 30% of the SMEs interviewed saw the US as the greatest opportunity for small UK online retailers in the next five years.

Significantly, 35% of respondents said that they based their export plans on how easy it was to ship and deliver to those markets – and nearly 40% said that a lack of knowledge of international markets remains the main barrier to further export activity. The complexity of shipping to international markets also deterred around 23% of small online retailers from exporting.

The study found that 57% of the online SMEs selling overseas “actively promote their international delivery service to attract foreign customers”. A third only offer international delivery options at check-out and do not advertise beyond that, while another 10% will offer international delivery only if specifically asked.

When asked about their favoured international carrier, 63% said they used Royal Mail and Parcelforce Worldwide as their main carrier.

Commenting on the findings, Richard Snowdon, Royal Mail’s International Director, said: “Royal Mail’s annual tracker of small online retailers shows that there is a huge appetite for exporting among UK small businesses.

“But it also shows that over a third could be missing out on sales by not actively promoting their international capabilities to encourage foreign custom.

“We believe that 2016 could be the year that exporting becomes big business for small online retailers in the UK and we have a range of international delivery options designed to make this process as simple as possible.”

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