Almost one in five service sector firms is currently actively looking at exporting, according to the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC). But concerns about excessive overseas regulations are holding back almost a third (32 per cent) of SMEs according to the its research.
Another survey, published last month by the business network BTube revealed that nearly half (49 per cent) of those SMEs asked felt that a lack of expertise was the biggest barrier to exporting, while nearly two thirds (63 per cent) said that they did not have the knowledge to create a successful online operation to support their export campaign.
“It’s vital,” declared the CBI, “that small and medium-sized businesses overcome barriers to fulfil their international potential.” However, only a fifth of the UK’s small and medium-sized businesses currently export, according its findings.
The CBI is also lobbying government and others to boost exports by introducing new and more competitive forms of trade finance and offers more information with its Increasing Exports campaign .
Although the UK has one of the largest populations of SMEs in Europe, the exporting record of those smaller and medium-sized companies does not compare particularly well with that of their European counterparts. According to research by courier UPS, 16 per cent of Belgian companies export, as do 14 per cent of those in Germany and Italy – whereas just 12 per cent of British SMEs export. However, the UK’s SMEs are the most likely to export outside the EU.
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Matt Guffey, marketing director at UPS, has provided Real Business with guidance for those SMEs ready to explore global markets in 2015.
(1) Global online sales are growing at four times the rate of GDP, and cross-border online sales are growing seven times the rate of GDP. To succeed in this new environment, growing businesses will need to evolve, becoming “boundary-less”. Boundary-less retail will provide consumers what they want, when they want it and where they want it – seamlessly across borders and across channels.
2. Small companies need practical advice, and luckily there are plenty of sources for ambitious businesses. The UKTI’s trading guide offers tips and guidance, from visiting trade fairs to understanding overseas business risks. UPS has recently launched an online Export Toolkit, to help first-time exporters navigate the sometimes complex international landscape.
3. Ecommerce is changing consumer behaviour and consumer expectations. Consumers want more choices, more control over when and where their purchases will be delivered, and a convenient returns process. Partner with a trusted brand to give customers the confidence they need to convert from browsing to buying online.
4. Language and cultural differences often prevent UK SMEs from exporting to non-English speaking countries, which means that markets such as China, Eastern Europe and emerging markets in Africa, Asia, South and Central America present an unrealised opportunity. Researching what is and isn’t deemed appropriate in a given country is an important part of your preparation to export, but don’t let it hinder taking the plunge.
5. Customers come first, wherever you’re shipping. So in order to make sure your products get to their destination without delay and to keep your customers happy, it’s essential to get your paperwork and shipping documentation right. Businesses looking to export should consider a logistics provider which can simplify the documentation process so it is as easy to ship to the next town, as it is to ship to another country – ultimately saving you time, money and entrepreneurial headaches.
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