E-commerce export tips

Global online trade was worth $22tn in 2015, according to the UN Conference on Trade and Development. But how do you start exporting online? Department for International Trade advisers offer their tips.
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E-COMMERCE has provided a route into overseas markets for many British SMEs.

The Department for International Trade (DIT) E-Exporting programme has provided support to more than 3,000 companies making their way in this area.

Among them is York-based handbag retailer, Maxwell Scott Bags. Founder William Forshaw sought advice on expanding the company’s online presence to e-marketplaces around the world in 2013.

Having worked closely with a DIT e-commerce adviser, the company now racks up 25% of its export sales through Amazon.

Exporting overseas helped the business grow by 300% in three years and led to the appointment of a head of e-marketplaces, whose sole focus is expanding the business further through online channels.

William Forshaw, founder of Maxwell Scott bags

“Working with Amazon has allowed us to save money on buying our own warehouses and additional manpower, and focus on growing other areas of the business,” Forshaw says.

International Trade Minister Mark Garnier said: “Our world-leading digital platform, gives businesses access to thousands of live overseas trading opportunities. They can read in-depth country guides that provide expert insight on local markets. And they can promote their goods to global buyers directly.

“Thanks to our partnerships with online giants such as Amazon and eBay, it is easier and cheaper to sell to an audience of more than two billion overseas consumers. The online market place is the future of global retail trade.”

So, where should entrepreneurs start?

DIT advisers set out their three top tips for Tribune readers:

Internationalise your website

In order to effectively sell online to different markets around the world, a business website should be accessible to an international audience.

E-commerce advisers can help online businesses by providing one-to-one support in areas including how to drive traffic to your website, maximise overseas sales, put in place a social media plan and integrate onto various overseas e-marketplaces.

'Market research prevents costly mistakes and maximises profit potential' - click the key to unlock more export advice

Advisers can also put you in touch with experts in translation, logistics, shipping and search engine optimisation. Businesses can find their local adviser at great.gov.uk.

Identify the right target markets

This is essential to successfully exporting online.

DIT’s country guides provide high-level market intelligence and help new exporters understand potential customers and market competition within different countries.

Use online tools

In November 2016, DIT launched great.gov.uk, a single destination for trade and investment, bringing together and connecting UK businesses, international buyers and international investors.

With nearly 1,900 live export opportunities, the site should be the first stop for any potential exporter.

The website also provides instant e-marketplace opportunities through the Selling Online Overseas Tool. The free facility allows UK companies to run tailored searches for their product and global markets they are interested in exporting to, matching supply with demand.

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Produced by the 2018 International Business Festival, in partnership with Wordscapes.