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The UK’s online shopkeepers are now exporters and social media users – and their sales are growing fast: report

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The UK’s online businesses are enjoying fast sales growth, with most now exporting and using social media to talk to their customers, according to new research.

This year’s annual Sage Pay e-business benchmark report asked more than 1,000 British and Irish internet businesses how their businesses had fared over the last year. On average, it found, companies reported sales growth of 49%.

Some 57% of etailers said they were now selling overseas. While the UK’s near-neighbours France, Germany and Spain are the most popular new markets, almost one in five said they now had a presence in China.

Three-quarters of etailers are now using Facebook and Twitter to drive sales. In all, 76% of respondents said they were using Twitter to talk to their customers – twice as many as at the same time last year. And 76% also now have their own Facebook page, an 18% rise on last year.

Simon Black, managing director of Sage Pay, said: “As the government talks about rebalancing the UK economy, it could do a lot worse than look at the vibrancy and dynamism of the e-commerce sector.

“Competition is healthy, yet fierce and as our report shows, e-tailers are rising to the challenge by embracing new technologies, expanding into new markets and innovating with new channels to entice and excite customers.”

Mobile has yet to take off among this group, however. Only 5% already have a mobile app, while 30% said they were planning to introduce one – in the long-term. But 27% dismissed the idea as irrelevant for their business.

“What we are seeing this year is a huge amount of interest and a certain degree of hype around mobile commerce,” said Black. “While some early adopters are seeing success, a lot of businesses have opted to play a waiting game while they decide how to best implement their m-commerce strategy. Service providers need to offer the flexibility needed to help these businesses take full advantage of new technologies.”

The Sage Pay e-business benchmark report, to be published on September 21, is based on research conducted between May and June 2011. You can register to receive the new report once it’s released here.

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