Digital businesses vital in quest to hit trade targets, says eBay

Digital businesses vital in quest to hit trade targets, says eBay

Ahead of Chancellor George Osborne’s Spring Budget on 16th March, eBay has argued that the continued growth of Britain’s digital small businesses will be vital to the UK Government reaching its trade target of £1 trillion exports by 2020. In a statement sent to Post&Parcel today (7 March), eBay said that its Small Business Exports Index (which Post&Parcel previously reported on in January) shows that of the 200,000 small digital firms trading on its UK marketplace:

  • 93% fulfilled overseas sales in 2015, with each exporting to an average of 20 different territories
  • This compares to just 28% of businesses without an online presence
  • These British online businesses have an annual growth rate of 12%.

George Osborne laid out his trade target at the 2012 Budget, but the latest ONS data puts UK exports at £515bn in 2015.

In its statement today, eBay added: “eBay’s study found that small digital businesses are keen to tap into global trade routes beyond the continent; as 52% see ‘lands of opportunity’ rather than risk in new markets. But businesses are currently avoiding an over-reliance on Europe as an exports hub; only one in three (32%) small digital firms consider Europe to be a key market.

“The top five most popular destinations for British exports via eBay are to the United States and Australia, followed by European countries like Germany, France and Italy.’

“The Index also found that an expansion of overseas trade features in 13% of small digital business’s 2016 strategies, with two thirds pinning growth targets on successful foreign sales.

Kit Glover, Director of Professional Selling & Cross Border Trade at eBay, commented: “More small online businesses are expanding into new markets with increasing vigor and we’re seeing growing numbers of micro-multinational businesses emerging. These are agile businesses capable of selling to a global audience, without the infrastructure of a traditional exporter.

“This creates a domino effect of job creation across different sectors, from manufacturing and services to procure more products, to logistics and delivery firms shipping more goods. This is good news for small business, and good news for Britain.”

Although small UK businesses are notching up successes, eBay said that they are also calling for more UK Government support to make exporting abroad easier. According to eBay, two thirds (63%) want more help than is currently provided, while one in four (27%) are put off exporting due to delivery and logistical challenges, and a further one in ten (13%) by language barriers.

Lesley Batchelor, Director General of the Institute of Export, commented: ‘Many small businesses are often put off from exporting by difficulties ranging from tariff codes to cultural issues and language barriers. But to realise the Government’s ambitious target of £1 trillion exports by 2020, many more small and medium size businesses in Britain need to start selling their wares abroad.

“That’s why we’ve set up Open to Export, a government-backed scheme that aims to make the process as easy as possible for British entrepreneurs. I’m optimistic that with a little help, our small businesses can help the UK grow into a true export powerhouse. To paraphrase Einstein, first we need to learn the rules of the export game, and then we can go out and play it better than anyone else.’

eBay rounded off its statement with Glover’s “top-tips” for UK small online retailers exporting overseas:

  • Take advantage of “cool Britannia”: UK brands and businesses are held in high esteem, so use this to your advantage.
  • Streamline payment: make sure you accept international payment methods such as credit cards and payment platforms like PayPal.
  • Be ship-shape:  Consumers are looking for speedy delivery (10-14 days), low cost, and reliable shipping services. eBay sellers can enroll for free into the Global Shipping Programme; international postage charges and any applicable customs charges are automatically shown on listings, and paid by buyers.  Parcels can simply be posted to the UK Shipping Centre using your usual postage service along with a tracking code, and parcels can then be tracked by both buyer and seller.
  • Leverage language: In the European market, language translation and local online platforms are key to engaging foreign audiences.


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