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Small online retailers look beyond Europe to boost exports in 2016
A new study has found that international confidence is high among the UK's small online retailers with over half aiming to increase international sales in both new and existing markets in 2016.
According to Royal Mail’s annual tracker study into their ambitions, Australasia has seen the most significant increase in interest as an export destination with 23% of small online retailers believing it holds the greatest opportunity for export sales growth, compared to just 5% last year. In addition, some 20% plan to target the region in 2016 compared to just 7% last year.
Asia has also increased in importance as an export destination with 26% of those polled believing that it holds significant sales opportunities, up from 12% last year.
The study found that Europe remains the main target for exports. Some 48% of SME retailers are aiming to sell their products in the Eurozone in 2016. This compares to just 30% last year. Meanwhile the USA is seen to present the greatest opportunity for UK small online retailers in the next five years by 30% of SMEs interviewed.
UK small online retailers are targeting new markets to capitalise on growing international demand for British products and services. Some 42% cited this as the main reason for their expansion plans followed by 35% who said they based their export plans on how easy it was to ship and deliver to those markets.
Of those who sell overseas, 57% said they 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, three in five said they used Royal Mail and Parcelforce Worldwide as their main carrier.
The research found that a lack of knowledge of international markets remains the main barrier to further export activity, holding back nearly 40%. However the complexity of shipping to international markets also deterred around a quarter of small online retailers from exporting.
Last year, Royal Mail launched a shop front on Alibaba’s e-marketplace, Tmall Global, to offer UK retailers the opportunity to access the Chinese market while removing the logistical challenges that many companies would otherwise face.
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."