Almost half of the UK’s online SMEs are missing out on an international sales boom because they only trade with domestic customers, research has found.
According to an Ipsos Mori survey conducted on behalf of PayPal, just 56 per cent of online small firms sell to customers abroad, despite a rising demand for UK goods.
Of the businesses polled that only sell domestically, around one third (35 per cent) intend to start selling overseas this year.
UK falling behind in the face of demand
The survey questioned more than 1,200 SMEs in major online retail markets, including the UK, the US, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, about their international sales strategies. It found that businesses in France and Spain are more focused on global sales, with 64 per cent and 61 per cent respectively selling internationally.
This is despite results from a previous PayPal study that there is a greater demand for British products than those form any other major European market. Some 86.4 million online shoppers from 29 countries bought from the UK in the last year.
The recent poll found that shipping costs were a major factor in the decision to not trade overseas for a quarter of SMEs, while 20 per cent said they were put off by customs and duties.
Simple changes for large rewards
Simon Moran, senior director of strategic client services for PayPal UK, said: “The UK is more popular than ever as a destination for online shoppers worldwide and 2015 proved to be a real tipping point.
“With more than 179 million active customer accounts around the world, PayPal is in a unique position to help British online businesses reach a global customer base.
“Simple changes to your online store such as accepting multiple currencies, offering different languages, and keeping shipping costs low can have an immediate impact on sales.”
In addition, online SMEs must look to maximise their business and marketing strategies in order to engage with overseas shoppers, to reflect the fact that more than one third (38 per cent) of buyers use a search engine when purchasing from abroad.
Moran added: “It’s crucial for businesses… to get to grips with SEO, as well as alternative social media networks like WeChat, which attract huge followings in other markets.
“By taking some small steps, UK online business could reap big rewards as online international sales continue to grow.”