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The UK has emerged as the world’s leading exporter of goods purchased online with a trade surplus of over $1bn (£0.61bn).

Online trade for six of the biggest ecommerce markets is expected to grow fivefold over the next seven years, from $25bn (£15.23bn) in 2013 to $130bn (£79.17bn) in 2020, according to new research by OC&C Strategy Consultants in collaboration with Google .

The Global Retail E-mpire report estimates that the value of online retail trade based on Google searches in six of the biggest ecommerce markets – UK, the US, Germany, the Nordics, the Netherlands and France – make up half of global ecommerce volumes. It has also found that the retail sector is becoming increasingly global and interconnected with trade between countries growing exponentially. Among the six markets analysed, the UK’s online retail economy is expected to generate the largest trade surplus in the world in 2013, surpassing $1bn (£0.61bn).

The US and Germany follow, with trade surpluses of $180m (£109.62m) and $35m (£21.32m) respectively. Peter Fitzgerald, Director at Google, comments: “The global increase in the number of people with internet access coupled with a rise in consumer confidence, combine to provide the ideal market conditions for ecommerce.

Looking to the future, any retailer wishing to enter the market must adopt a digital-first strategy to succeed.” Whilst Amazon and eBay pioneered international trading online, a number of specialist retailers have shown that they can internationalise successfully through digital commerce – in some cases, by establishing a combination of a digital and a physical presence. These include online pureplays such as ASOS , iHerb and Zalando ; multichannel retailers such as Sephora and Pandora; and luxury and sport brands such as Burberry , Hugo Boss, Adidas and Lacoste .

Shaun McCabe, International Director at ASOS, comments: “Our aim is to always offer our products to ASOS customers globally and we use our brand and online marketing to build a loyal customer base in new markets.

Supporting this is a simple and cost effective operation with a centralised infrastructure and team and operational back-end support enabling us to serve the world from the UK.” Robb, COO at Farfetch, comments: “We believed the proposition of combining items from the best fashion boutiques would have global appeal, so long as we could provide a seamless customer experience. We now ship from 25 countries and have customers in over 170. A core part of our success has been implementing processes that work on a global scale, including customer acquisition, shipping, customs clearance and returns. We currently have operations in Europe, US and Brazil with websites in English, French and Portuguese. We strongly believe that providing a global product proposition with a localised, multichannel experience is the future.”

According to Andy Harding, Executive Director of Multichannel, House of Fraser , the retailer’s multichannel capabilities have been core to its recent success and has enabled it to grow its customer base across the globe as a result. By differentiating itself from competitors, particularly through marketleading delivery “we can get products to customers in 131 countries faster than almost anyone else,” he says. As the global retail landscape continues to develop, OC&C expects retailers to look for innovative ways of shipping goods directly from the source of supply to the buyer – making international delivery between countries even faster and creating a seamless shopping experience.

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