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UK is the world’s leading exporter: study

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The UK is the world’s leading ecommerce exporter, according to a new report.

The report, developed with OC&C Strategy Consultants and Google , found that in 2013 the UK exported via internet sales goods worth $1bn (£0.6bn) more than it imported. That’s a trade surplus well ahead of the $180m (£109.6m) generated by the US and $35m (£21.3m) by Germany.


Over the next seven years, predicts the Global Retail E-mpire report, online trade for six of the biggest ecommerce markets will grow fivefold to $130bn in 2020, compared to $25bn in 2013. The value is estimated based on Google searches in the six biggest ecommerce markets: the UK, US, Germany, Nordics, Netherlands and France.

Peter Fitzgerald, director at Google, said: “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.

“The success of UK retailers can partly be attributed to operating in the most advanced ecommerce market in the world, but also to the high level of trust international customers have in UK brands and retailers. Looking to the future, any retailer wishing to enter the market must adopt a digital-first strategy to succeed.”

Anita Balchandani, partner at OC&C, says that being local will be “crucial” as international etail expands over the next decade, giving retailers “a new, capital-light approach to grow rapidly.”

“Localisation is crucial to tap into new pockets of demand, from tailoring the range on offer to localised marketing activity, to ensuring that delivery and payment methods are best suited to country requirements,” she said. “For example, SmartGuy, an online fashion eretailer in the Nordics has successfully expanded across Europe, through thinking and acting local. Its marketing team delivers local campaigns which translate into demonstrable improvements in sales.”

She also pointed to the example of Asos, which services customers from a local UK base but localises its digital marketing activity.

Shaun McCabe, international director at ASOS , said: “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.”

Balchandani also pointed to eBay as a route to international markets.

“Online marketplaces like eBay create opportunity for retailers of all sizes, allowing them to internationalise at low risk – researching consumer behaviour, testing their online offering and benefitting from the traffic and brand awareness of the marketplace itself,” she said. “We expect online marketplaces to be part of the mix for retailers particularly in the early days of their international expansion, and to play a complementary role with a retailer’s own website and stores.”

Alex Von Schirmeister, vice president, eBay, said: “We believe it’s time to declare the ‘death of distance’. Cross-border trade on eBay in the second quarter of 2013 reached $11 billion, representing 22 per cent of the company’s total commerce and payment volumes.

“eBay enables retailers to seize this cross-border opportunity with minimal red-tape. Over 95 per cent of British businesses on eBay, both big and small, already export around the world.”

Andy Harding, executive director of multichannel, House of Fraser , said: “House of Fraser’s multichannel capabilities have been core to our recent success, and we have grown our customer base from across the globe as a result. We’ve achieved this by focusing on three key areas. Firstly, by differentiating ourselves from our competitors, particularly through our market-leading delivery.

“We can get products to customers in 131 countries faster than almost anyone else. Secondly, our focus on mobile has meant that we were receiving more than 50% of traffic from touchscreen devices six months before our competitors. Thirdly, our focus on creating unique, engaging and authoritative content for our customers has led to greater brand awareness and higher conversion to sales.”

John Gillan, industry retail leader at Google UK, will be speaking at IRX 2014. His presentation, Refining your mobile strategy through a deeper understanding of the mobile customer, will be at 11.35am in the Mobile and Mobility Conference at IRX 2014 on March 27, day two of the expo.

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