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Exporting: It’s easier than you think

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This is understandable – entering unfamiliar territory can be daunting, and businesses know how important it is to get deliveries right. There are several steps that businesses can take to start exporting and ensure products are always delivered on time.

Firstly, there is no substitute for visiting potential markets and experiencing the local culture first hand. Getting to know your target market will be hugely helpful when preparing your delivery strategy, as it provides priceless insights into a market’s trading values. You can travel on your own or you can take part in an organised trade mission.

Governments and industry groups often organise trade missions, which can include useful activities such as “meet and greets” with potential trade partners and opportunities to connect with local businesspeople.

For example, UPS has two trade missions planned this year in partnership with Enterprise Nation: one to Berlin and one to China. All include focused sessions on building an international business as well as networking opportunities.

Once you understand your target markets’ business environment, the next step is navigating local customs rules and regulations. SMEs can make their delivery processes more efficient by learning more about the various taxes, tariffs and legislation. This due diligence can help SMEs avoid expensive customs hold ups and late deliveries.

Recent changes to de minimis charges affecting shipments to the US are a great example, as UK businesses stand to benefit from an increase in the lower limit on imported items, making it easier to do business with the US. The trade organisations that represent your product group, as well as the HMRC website, are great places to start your research.

Once a business has customs procedures in order, the next step is to optimise its shipping processes. Gilo Industries Group, which manufactures and ships world-leading paramotor aircraft and engines, uses a fully automated system that helps them reduce transportation time and errors. It also allows shippers to keep customers informed during the entire export chain with on-screen visibility and notifications, giving customers peace of mind.

Many small businesses worry that shipping overseas is not worth the time and effort, but this doesn’t have to be the case. Most global logistics companies have services dedicated to getting items to the other side of the world in as little as two days. Offering overseas customers the ability to receive items quickly is a key business driver and will help differentiate you from your competitors.

Research undertaken by UPS and comScore underlines this, with 43 per cent of customers revealing that having products delivered late decreases their likelihood to shop with that retailer again. Customer satisfaction is crucial in all parts of the exporting process, and speedy delivery is a great way to earn it.

Exporting can be a daunting prospect for SMEs, but if done correctly it can be incredibly rewarding and profitable. GOV.UK estimates that UK-US trade is now worth more than £130bn a year, demonstrating the undeniable opportunity for SMEs who are willing to expand to new markets.

If the right checks and research are undertaken there is no reason why you cannot join the thousands of other UK SMEs who are successfully exporting all over the world.

Richard Currie is director of public affairs UK, Ireland and the Nordics at UPS

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