With International Trade Week starting next Monday, Roland Palmer, General Manager UK, Benelux and Nordics for the Alibaba Group discusses putting the export opportunity at the top of the agenda for businesses.
International Trade Week: Putting the export opportunity top of the agenda for businesses
This year’s International Trade Week (31st October – 4th November) comes at an opportune moment. Against the backdrop of a potential recession, UK businesses are under increased pressure to unlock innovative ways to grow.
One of the key themes for the week is helping businesses discover how to trade internationally. Filling this knowledge gap is critical for businesses to capitalise on the opportunities that global markets open. Exporting can significantly expand access to more customers and markets, diversify and spread business risks, and provide a platform for innovative ideas and new practices.
The UK’s export landscape
In our survey of over 2,000 businesses in the UK, almost half are concerned about the challenges of cross-border trade, despite recognising the export potential, with the biggest barriers to exporting identified as paperwork and customs rules. Clearly, businesses understand the importance of trading overseas, but are often worried about their ability to navigate a complex landscape.
Despite this, we know that confidence amongst UK businesses that do currently export is high, with 78% saying they expect their export sales to increase in the next 12 months. Amongst businesses focused on B2B exports only, 81% say they expect their export sales to increase in the next 12 months.
How online marketplaces can support export ambitions
As an essential part of today’s export landscape, online marketplaces offer a simple and seamless solution for businesses. 92% of those exporting overseas are currently working with online marketplaces – because they can provide the tools, platform and reach to strengthen their international presence and boost export sales.
At Alibaba, we enable businesses of all shapes and sizes to access new markets and benefit from significant export opportunities through Alibaba.com, our B2B marketplace focused on enabling UK businesses to export to all over the world, and through our B2C ecommerce platform Tmall Global, which enables UK brands to export to China.
The Edinburgh Natural Skincare Company, for example, has recently joined both Alibaba.com and Tmall Global, keen to capture both the global export and the China export opportunities.
Vector Consumer, a UK supplements company, developed an official licensed range of Liverpool FC sports nutrition products exclusively available in China on our B2C platform, Tmall Global. Its success was driven by tapping into the huge fanbase for the sports team in Asia.
Another example is UK men’s grooming lifestyle brand Hawkins & Brimble, whose partnership with Alibaba has led to the company’s growth in China, which now represents 25% of its overall business. It’s important to understand local market dynamics and the key trends in your product category. With Hawkins & Brimble, access to local insights has enabled the brand to stay close to the Chinese consumer and while male grooming habits are certainly different in the UK, the concept of the ‘traditional English gentleman’ is now being embraced by the Chinese.
Now is the time for UK SMEs to consider entering international markets and increase their reach and potential customer base by leveraging the quality and heritage associated with ‘Brand Britain’. We’re excited to support International Trade Week and look forward to helping more businesses turn their export ambitions into a reality.