Alibaba’s Top tips to unlock export opportunities

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Roland Palmer, General Manager, UK, Benelux and Nordics at Alibaba Group, share top tips from Alibaba on how to unlock the export opportunity for businesses of all sizes:

Export opportunities

Exporting overseas presents a potentially huge growth opportunity for UK businesses, but too often it’s seen as inaccessible and hard to navigate. That doesn’t mean that businesses don’t see exporting as invaluable to their growth. In fact, Alibaba’s recent Export Outlook Report – based on a survey of 2,000 UK businesses – revealed that almost all UK businesses think exporting internationally is a viable opportunity.

However despite this, the report also found that nearly a fifth (22%) of UK businesses do not currently export.

Clearly businesses feel their export potential is being hampered by a set of challenges. Here, using the findings of the Export Outlook Report, we will break these down and discuss what businesses should consider to make exporting overseas a viable opportunity. Read on for our top tips on how to start your exporting journey:

1) Understand the potential challenges

We asked businesses what was holding them back on their exporting journey. We found that 48% of UK businesses agreed exporting internationally is a viable opportunity but are concerned about the challenges of cross-border trade. When asked about what these challenges are, 19% of UK businesses surveyed said a lack of demand for products in overseas markets, while 25% revealed concerns about payment security and late payments. Topping the list at 28% was increased paperwork and customs rules.

Without the right advice to navigate these challenges, it is easy to see how starting an exporting journey would be daunting. For UK businesses, the Department for International Trade’s export hub can arm you with a wealth of information to support you to identify the right path for your business.

2) Identify where a helping hand might be needed

It is important for business leaders to recognise the type of support they might need to help them fulfil their export ambitions.

Data from the UK SME Exporting Trends: Finance and Trade report suggests that 35% of SME exporters seek information or advice to support their international expansion and sales – it is important for business leaders to recognise where they might have knowledge gaps and seek external advice to help them fulfil their export ambitions.

This is further evidenced by our survey results that found that 38% of UK businesses want more professional advice from an export advisor when starting out on their export journey.

38% also said that more government support would help open new markets for them, as well as country-specific exporting information (38%) and grants to support costs (37%). Overseas marketing information was cited (36% of UK businesses) as useful material to ensure a more seamless and effective launch into international markets.

For businesses looking to export to China, support from associations such as the China-Britain Business Council can help ensure an effective and seamless launch into the Chinese market.

3) Find the right partner

Once the challenges have been identified, along with the strategies to overcome them, it’s all about putting words into actions and seeking a partner that can make exporting overseas a reality. Online marketplaces are an essential part of today’s export landscape, offering a simpler and more seamless solution to access international markets.

Our report found that 92% of businesses are currently working with online marketplaces to increase their export sales. When asked why, 54% explained it was more cost-effective for their business, 49% said they reach more potential buyers and 43% said it was more efficient.

Each business case is different, and for businesses looking to China, Alibaba can provide them with unparalleled insights into the market. Our cross-border marketplace Tmall Global allows international brands to forego the need for local processing and infrastructure. As the largest B2C cross-border ecommerce platform in China, more than 80% of brands on Tmall Global have made their China debut on the platform. While each business’s strategy will be unique, we suggest that every business should consider the following to help unlock both their own exporting potential and that of other UK businesses:

  1. Tackle the common misconceptions that exporting is too complicated
  2. Find a trusted partner to provide tailored, specialist support and instil greater confidence
  3. Share information and give other companies the opportunity to learn from your success story

As the global online shopping trend continues to boom, UK retailers should seize the right opportunity to broaden their business horizons and to maximise their business potential. Not only is exporting a chance to showcase a brand overseas but it can also bring a transformational boost to the UK economy through growth and job creation.


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