Export through your screen: Taking your business further through e-exporting

Published on 31st October 2019

Business pundits have suggested that we are currently in the middle of a fourth industrial revolution.

Industrial revolutions come about because of technology. In the 18th-Century it was steam, and in the years since then, we have had electricity and automation powering mass production. Now the rise of digital technology means that the tool behind the latest revolution is on your desk – or even in your hand.

E-commerce means that any business can buy and sell to any other business – or individual – anywhere in the world at the touch of a button.

Of course, it has already begun. Worldwide e-commerce revenues are projected to grow to around $4.88trn in 2021, and the pace of the growth looks set to accelerate.

You and your clients cannot afford to be left behind.

Is it time to look at exporting?

In the wake of Brexit, many businesses are looking at their core activities and clients close to home – but, in fact, the disruption caused by leaving the EU makes looking at new ways to work with overseas customers and suppliers all the more important.  Although it may seem like a challenging time to start making any radical business initiatives, it could actually be a very good opportunity to start taking your company further with an e-commerce export drive.

After all, the pound is at a lower valuation point than it has been for a very long time, which means that your products are especially competitive on the international market. What’s more, there could be government support for exporting – and, of course, Brexit promises to remove many of the restrictions that were holding back exporting to the rest of the world.

Looking to sell abroad? Find out how Export Finance can ease the financial worry of exporting

How to start selling abroad

If you are already selling online in the UK, there is little to stop you from becoming an exporter. You could sell to anywhere in the world as soon as you get an international order.

You may not even need a high-cost e-commerce website. E-marketplaces like Amazon Global Selling or Alibaba provide a readymade route to take your wares to market to customers all over the world.

Most will also be able to take care of the payments required. Paypal is a trusted, internationally recognised payment service, but other local payment services, such as Alipay from China, can also be useful.

Of course, not all types of products or services are suitable for these online marketplaces. If you are dealing with a complex or high-value product, you may need to invest in international versions of your own website. You may have to think about translating your website into the local language of the countries you are targeting, to increase your visibility and accessibility.

Never rely on technology to translate your site. Services such as Google Translate can provide a translation that is technically correct, but it’s vitally important to localise tone and make sure you get a real human - ideally a local - to sense-check what you are putting out.

With help from your local experts, it can then be easy to buy AdWords and SEO expertise, and test with very little risk, just as you would with your UK-facing site.

You could also buy the local version of your domain name to increase your local presence. Again, global payment systems like Paypal can make getting paid easier for direct sales to customers, but you may need to make arrangements with your bank to ensure that payments will be processed swiftly.

Where will you sell?

If translating your site sounds like a major headache, you may be tempted to conclude that the easier answer is to concentrate on selling to English-speaking countries. The US, most of Canada and Australasia certainly present opportunities – but you still need to ensure that your sales message is right for local markets.

Some experts go so far as to insist that the US should actually be seen as 52 different markets, all with their own regional variations on language and sales rules and regulations – and all can be unsympathetic to new entrants who don’t get things right.

It could be worth considering smaller markets such as Scandinavia, along with those across Europe. They can be more forgiving to new entrants – and fulfilment may be easier.

What about the money?

Managing your cash flow is also crucial if your business is to succeed across global markets. To help with cash flow planning, the first step is to find out from your bank how long it will take for you to be paid from international accounts. This can be up to 6 weeks in some cases – and there could be substantial bank charges for international transfers.

Card payments may appear simpler, as they convert foreign currency into pound sterling as part of the service, and allow you to take advantage of a highly developed international payment infrastructure, but bear in mind additional credit card charges for international business can be an extra 6% on top of any standard charge and that exchange rates will fluctuate.

You may, realistically, need help with cash flow when you start looking at e-exports. At Rangewell we can help, with funding designed to ease short-term cashflow problems, and with support specifically designed for exporters.

To find out more about how we can help you take your business further, call our Export Advisory Team on 020 3318 2613.


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Richard Mitchell

Richard Mitchell

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