FedEx has released a report that says that UK SMEs are bullish about the export opportunity and those that embrace it are enjoying growth. Apparently 63% of British small businesses are trading overseas and of those 81% are ecommerce businesses.
The FedEx SMEs Export Report says 30% have seen growth in the past year. 86% of exporting British SMEs trade within Europe and 63% export to non-EU countries.
The case has never been easier to make: it’s a good time to embrace exporting with ecommerce. The relative weakness of Sterling after the Brexit vote in June 2016 is one reason (although that also has ramifications for traders sourcing stock from overseas) but even before that cross border trade offered a huge opportunity to tap into a much larger buying public than is on offer in the UK domestically.
So why doesn’t everyone who sells online sell overseas? The answer is that there are barriers, there’s much to learn and it can be a tricky business. Here are some of the key concerns:
Shipping and logistics: Sending items overseas can be unpredictable and fraught with problems. For instance, how do you live up to marketplace standards on returns when the cost of administering such a return might very well not be worth your while? Plenty of international couriers exist and can help, but can the cost be justified? It’s interesting to note that just this week Royal Mail reported changes and increases to international postage prices.
Tariffs and duties: Here the rules really are complex too. Whether it’s Canada, America, Australia, Peru, the Philippines or anywhere there are usually import and export duties that apply. And they differ from nation to nation. To know the full code for even a clutch of nations is a huge undertaking. Obviously, usually, buyers bear such fees. Make sure they know that.
VAT: One of the benefits of trading within the EU (and the UK is still in it, will be for at least a couple of years and we have no idea what the exit deal will be.) is that you don’t have to deal with import and export duties within the EU bloc. That’s the free movement of goods. But it isn’t all plain sailing. If you export goods from the UK to all of the EU member states and comply with all the VAT regulations then you’ll be posting over 60 VAT returns over the course of the year. Talk about red tape.
Language: Not all the world speaks English and even if you translate your listings effectively there will be customer queries and emails to deal with. Even if you or your team have language skills, it’s a big ask to be fluent in all the languages you may have to communicate in. Of course, services are available to help but it’s a stress.
Fear and complexity: It’s hard enough doing the day job, keeping the wheels on and just fulfilling the orders you have. Growing your base and embarking on new ventures can be scary and complex. So, it’s hardly reprehensible that you may feel apprehensive or put it off. There is plenty to learn. And when life’s busy, taking on new challenges isn’t easy.
All of these problems can, of course, be solved. And in the Tamebay Guide you’ll find a stack of solutions to grease the wheels, but why aren’t you selling overseas? We’d love to know what the barriers you perceive are and why they stop you from selling abroad. Tell us why you don’t. And if you do sell online, tell us all how you overcame the most difficult challenges. And tell us how well it worked. 🙂