There will be plenty of businesses, big and small, looking to grab a slice of Christmas spending over the next few weeks. But while most eyes will be on the high street at home, tapping into overseas shoppers could significantly boost sales.
UK online retail exports are set to reach £60bn by 2018, according to researchers IORMA and, more immediately, Brits expected to export £153m worth of items this Christmas on eBay alone - so it’s a big opportunity.
Here are six pointers for businesses looking to tap into overseas markets online:
1. Go for it
Many companies in the UK are ready to export a long time before they feel able to and are missing out. There is lot of advice and help out there from the likes of UKTI and HMRC, but if you are confident in your product and offer international postage and easy payment methods there should be nothing stopping you getting a piece of the action.
2. Milk ‘Cool Britannia’
The UK has an excellent reputation around the world when it comes to retail so make sure you make the most of it, especially those in the fashion industry where there is huge demand from overseas. After the UK’s Indian summer and the warmest Halloween on record, what better way to shift a build up of winter stock?
3. Speak their language
In the European market at least, language translation and local online platforms are key to engaging overseas customers. Sharing a language with the US is obviously a huge benefit, but adding American spellings or words (pants/trousers, colour/color, etc) where appropriate within the description of your products will help you get noticed across search engines and online marketplaces.
4. Get ship shape
Your postage options can make or break your international success. Shoppers are looking for speedy (3-5 days in EU, 10-14 days rest of world), low cost and reliable shipping services. In the US, for example, tracking is also considered to be the retail standard.
When you sell and post internationally, you must also be aware of and comply with the customs and tax regulations involved, which can differ significantly depending on where you are selling and posting to. But don’t forget about the home market either - offering free shipping domestically will have a significant impact on conversion rates and sales growth.
5. Streamline payment
We are seeing the death of distance as we know it for many shoppers - it doesn’t matter if a product they want is at a local store or in a shopkeeper’s window halfway around the world. And if customers can’t pay for goods they won’t buy from you. Make sure you accept international payment methods and make it easy for them to open their virtual wallets.
6. Go mobile
When it comes to the sales, consumers all over the world love to grab a deal on their mobiles. UK retailers are leading the way when it comes to offering shopping across smartphones and tablets and so are in a strong position to cater for it abroad. That means if you’re not doing it already, there’s plenty of expertise here to help you start.
Murray Lambell is eBay's UK director of international trade.