If you’re one of the many small or medium sized East of England businesses selling to customers online, it’s likely most of your customers come from the UK. This means you could well be missing out on a share of the billions spent online each year from 2 billion worldwide internet users.
In Western Europe alone there are 95 million people shopping online each year spending an average €1,864 per person and while it may appear to be a ‘world wide’ web, unless you are set up for overseas buyers they are probably not finding you. In fact 70% of online searches aren’t made in English. The good news is that it only takes a few simple adjustments to your site to make it appropriate for these many untapped customers.
How can Department for International Trade help?
Through its digital experts, the Department for International Trade (DIT) is able to take you through the various steps towards achieving worldwide sales for your product or service. DIT works closely with East of England businesses to lift the quality of their online presenceand attract new customersoutside the UK.
One of the first questions you may have is whether there would be any interest in your product or service outside the UK. Says DIT East of England digital expert Derek Scanlon: “One of the challenges to exporters is identifying the cultural differences between the UK and export markets. Understanding what products and services might be in demand in a new market is critical and mistakes can end your ambitions for a new export market before you even begin. The first step is to put away your assumptions and preconceptions. Here’s a test – would anyone buy a plastic bag of fresh air? In Xi’an Mall in China customers snapped up large bags of ‘clean air’ for around 12p. If one of your daily preoccupations is air quality and respiratory health you might consider that a small price to pay. Xi’an may be just one city, but it’s a city with the population
“One of the challenges to exporters is identifying the cultural differences between the UK and export markets”
Once you’ve decided to go ahead the process is based on three steps. The first is diagnosis. This involves a range of investigations into the technical and content aspects of your digital channels, including web and mobile. It can also include support with analytics, search optimisation, conversion rate optimisation (which helps make it as easy as possible for people to use your website) and market research. DIT then looks at online and offline data to identify two to three likely export markets, followed by choosing a route to market – either translating and localising some, or all, of your existing website or listing your products on a relevant e-Marketplace. You’ll obviously be familiar with Amazon and eBay, but these are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to e-Marketplaces. In fact DIT has exclusive deals with more than 40 across the globe.
These include Mercado Libre, which covers much of South America, Flippak, India’s largest online marketplace and China’s VIP, which has 19.7m daily unique users. And it’s not just distant countries or those who don’t speak English. In France Cdiscount, for example, has 16m members, with individual sellers shipping out to them. In New Zealand TradeMe attracts 70% of all local internet traffic. E-Marketplaces are also a great way to test your product in a chosen market to determine if the demand is out there. It’s also worth taking the time to research which platforms are most prominent in your sector or your preferred export market.
Amara’s online success
While many businesses operate overseas via e-Marketplaces others localise their existing website. Essex based luxury home products company Amara, for example, is set up to operate in 150 different countries, each with a website tailored to the particular country’s needs. This ability to act locally when operating globally has put it in the UK’s top 100 small and medium sized companies for international sales growth. The final step to online success is marketing, which can include Google Adwords and Pay Per Click Advertising, Facebook Ads, etc. DIT has also built a regional roster of vetted digital agencies to provide ongoing support for all things digital.