International Trade

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Grow your business overseas: Three areas to focus on

5 Mins

You might not realise it, but as a UK business you are in a prime position to become a successful exporter. “Brand Britain” represents quality, innovation and tradition around the world and there is a great appetite for products and services from the UK in a variety of international markets. It’s predicated that by 2020 revenue from overseas online sales is will reach £28bn for British retailers.

In order to make the most of your exporting journey, it is important that you prepare thoroughly and develop an export strategy to ensure success and maximise profit. You should consider how a new market may affect your product and adapt your sales channels accordingly. 

Having knowledge of customs and regulatory requirements in each market can help ensure processes are smooth and learning from customer feedback in every new market will also support your business development.

How to build new relationships and adapt to different markets 

You already know that every market is different. However, discovering exactly why they are and building your strategy around this from an early stage will help you to target the right audience with the right product. You cannot approach exporting with a one size fits all attitude – understanding cultural and legal nuances is crucial to success.

Online platforms and e-commerce marketplaces are a good place to begin exporting and can be easily adapted for every country. Adding language options to your website and the option to pay in different currencies will encourage customers from new markets to make a purchase. 

One quarter of the global population speaks English, but buyers want a simple process when shopping online so it is important to enable this.

How to navigate customs to ensure success

Navigating cultural nuances can be achieved with a few simple changes to your model, but navigating customs and regulations can be slightly more daunting. 

Research from UKTI suggested that 27 per cent of UK firms reported customs issues as a barrier to exporting. It is important that those new to export are aware of the support that is available from a variety of sources including advisors in businesses and online guides from trade bodies.

Crucially, you must do all of the right groundwork. Having all relevant documentation to hand and registering with HMRC as an exporter are key first steps to take. 

You should also familiarise yourself with the International Commercial Terms for trading abroad and get all shipping documentation ready, so that the first international order can be processed and shipped with ease.

How to ensure your business gets the most out of your export journey

Once you’ve established yourself in a new market, continually developing your knowledge of the local culture and different markets means that your offering will not go stale – where possible you should ask for, and learn from, customer feedback and visit new countries to learn more about your customers first hand.

It’s worth remembering that the lessons on your export journey will enhance your services in the UK as well. According to UKTI, 78 per cent of businesses said that exporting had exposed them to new ideas, enabling the development of new products and the expansion of existing services in the UK. 

So while commercial growth may be your motivation when investing in exporting, domestic development may be a welcome bi-product.

I cannot stress enough that support is available for any business looking to expand internationally. 

Successful exporting requires insight and there’s no shortage of organisations to support growing businesses – a wealth of advice is available whether you need to know more about shipping to a new continent or want a legal expert to review your paperwork. Wherever necessary, seek support to develop a strong export strategy and ensure success.

Phil Couchman is CEO of DHL Express UK&I.

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