Almost half of digital UK SMEs missing out on global sales

11th April 2016

A new survey of small and medium-sized retailers operating in the major online retail markets found that UK-based digital SMEs capitalised less on international sales than neighbouring European nations such as France and Spain.

The report, conducted by PayPal, quizzed digital SMEs across the UK, the US, France, Germany, Italy and Spain to discover their global sales strategies.

The findings come despite a previous PayPal study claiming there is higher consumer demand for British goods over goods from any other major European market. An estimated 86.4 million online shoppers from 29 countries bought from the UK in the last 12 months.

A quarter of businesses surveyed cited shipping and the associated costs as the biggest barrier to selling abroad while customs and duties were the second most cited concern among digital SMEs. Equally, the single biggest driver for consumers buying from overseas was free delivery.

Simon Moran, senior director of strategic client services, PayPal UK, said: “The UK is more popular than ever as a destination for online shoppers worldwide and 2015 proved to be a real tipping point.

“With more than 179 million active customer accounts around the world, PayPal is in a unique position to help British online businesses reach a global consumer base.

“Simple changes to your online store such as accepting multiple currencies, offering different languages, and keeping shipping costs low can have an immediate impact on sales.”

In a bid to encourage UK SMEs to delve into more lucrative foreign markets, PayPal covers the cost of returning unwanted goods of international shoppers in 25 global markets. This service ensures customers who pay with PayPal can claim back the cost of return shipping to the UK.

According to the survey respondents, international online sales among UK SMEs are dominated by consumers much closer to home with combined overseas sales to European countries amounting to almost two-thirds (61 per cent) of cross-border sales value.

North America is ranked as the UK’s second largest market, resulting in 20 per cent of UK online sales overseas. Meanwhile Asia is ranked third, with six per cent of all UK international sales.

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