Passport to Growth

June 2016


SMEs are essential for the development of the UK economy. They create a huge range of benefits for us both financially and socially. Benefits include: creating jobs, lowering the pressure on state benefits, broadening the skillset of staff, increasing the standard of living and of course, increasing consumer confidence by urging them to spend.

With consumer demand increasing, alongside technology advances, SME businesses have the potential to grow on an international scale and take a slice of the global pie. SMEs must grab these growth opportunities in international markets and take advantage of positive market factors!

By expanding abroad, businesses have the opportunity to establish a new and wider customer base, grow their product range, increase sales, and limit their reliability on the UK market.

54R75ZZK5Z.jpgImage Credit: John-Mark Kuznietsov

What’s enabled this massive opportunity?

  • Technological advances mean the world is now open to everyone; your products and services are searchable across the globe.
  • The influence of major social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn enable companies to build an identity to increase brand awareness, reach new customers, find staff, provide a general community for discussion and talk to other countries.
  • A customer can track and follow their delivery – increased confidence in ordering from abroad

So, how can you Go Global?

  • Is your business ready to look abroad?
  • Do you understand the competition?
  • Are there any cultural issues you need to be aware of?
  • Have you researched your intended country and its customers?

If it’s so great an opportunity surely the global market is becoming saturated with UK offerings? Well, apparently not. PayPal carried out a research which surveyed a range of business within the UK, the US, France, Germany, Italy and Spain about their international sales strategy. The results found that approximately 56% of the UK’s small businesses are selling to customers abroad, which seems like a relatively high number but when you compare it to our European counterparts, not so much – 61% in Spain and 64% in France. 

This research was conducted after an initial study identified that there is a higher consumer demand for British goods over their European counterparts. Over the past 12 months it is estimated that 86.4 million shoppers across 29 countries purchased from the UK. Brand Britain is strong. Suren Thiru, economic advisor at the British Chambers of Commerce believes that too few UK companies are looking abroad and remarks, “The World is full of opportunities for UK businesses…British brands enjoy high status throughout the world…need to exploit this heritage to reach new customers abroad.”

A master at selling Brand Britain is Sir Richard Branson. It’s not just the business community who think this is a good idea. The government have launched a campaign entitled ‘Exporting is great’ which is aimed at promoting and encouraging businesses to look abroad and market their products. By 2020 the British government wish to achieve a value of £1 trillion exports per year and have created a website hub where you can access a range of guides, information and events to make it easier for you to research and find information. So, why the push? Well a prosperous export market helps strengthen the economy and deliver sustainable growth.

As this campaign was launched, Sage published survey data revealing that 75% of small and medium businesses aren’t selling overseas and currently didn’t have plans to - your business might be able to cut an even bigger slice of the pie!

But, what barriers are there?

One misconception is that the only viable market to research and expand into is Europe. In recent times, the US has overtaken Europe as the top export target with Australasia and Asia (especially China) following behind. For example, did you know that China replaced Belgium & Luxembourg as the 6th most significant market for the UK? All business owners need to evaluate the markets they could enter and work out how they can fulfil demand.

Other barriers can be:

  • Limited information on their potential overseas market
  • Transportation costs
  • Delivery costs
  • Finance
  • Unfamiliar exporting procedures and associated paperwork
  • Meeting export standards
  • Language difficulties

The PayPal research identified shipping and its associated costs as the “top barrier to selling abroad”. In a different article, 35% of respondents claimed that they “based their export plans on how easy it was to ship and deliver”. A further 23% of small online retailers were deterred from expanding abroad due to the “complexity of shipping”.

At Whistl, our team of International experts are here to provide the best services for you and your global ambition. Find out how we can help you here.

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