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UK's online retailers see huge surge in overseas shoppers

posted on 05/02/2014 17:23:03 by Dan O'Sullivan

Britain's online businesses have managed to increase their appeal to international consumers

Worldwide web: Retailers are boosting their export opportunities thanks to the internet

After years of financial turmoil, increasing Britain's exports is widely considered as one of the most effective ways to rebuild the country's economy - and the latest figures suggest that online retailers are more than playing their part in the recovery.

As the British Retail Consortium (BRC) has revealed, overseas shoppers have been flocking to the UK's internet stores in huge numbers, with consumers in key export markets increasingly searching the web for Britain's retailers.

It's a promising sign that reflects the strength of the UK's eCommerce sector, and means Britain is now the world's second biggest online retail exporter. So, just where is all this traffic coming from?

Device diversity

According to the BRC's Peter Fitzgerald, one of the reasons Britain is now a dominant player when it comes to international ecommerce is the successful growth of multi-platform websites.

Reaching this point isn't something that has happened overnight - it's the result of businesses realising the value of investing in their web presence in order to engage with consumers in a wide range of areas<

With consumers increasingly using smartphones and tablets to browse online stores, retailers are working to ensure their sites and services display neatly on these devices - and the numbers indicate that UK businesses are doing this to great effect.

This was clear in Germany, where the number of prospective customers searching for British web stores on their smartphones surged by a massive 231% in the last quarter of 2013. There were also impressive gains on tablet devices in France, while shoppers in the Netherlands, Russia and even Argentina bought from the UK's online retailers in their droves.

Intelligent investment

Reaching this point isn't something that has happened overnight - it's the result of businesses realising the value of investing in their web presence in order to engage consumers in a wide range of areas. Another aspect is that online retailers have placed greater focus on speeding up the delivery process for overseas customers.

It's all about improving the all-round experience for shoppers. While this is just as important domestically, getting it right on the international stage requires more time and consideration - and it looks as if the rewards are starting to more than justify the effort.

Maintaining focus

Indeed, it is not just firms in the online retail sector who are being encouraged to tap into export markets. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is currently on a trade visit to Colombia and Mexico aiming to promote closer ties, and has explained his belief that the UK is yet to realise the full potential of properly functioning commercial relationships with the two countries.  

The trip is a wider part of the government's attempts to build a stronger global presence for UK firms, and the authorities will also be boosted by the news that new export business in Britain's manufacturing sector has reached a three-year high.

As trading overseas becomes increasingly lucrative, it's vital that small firms realise the benefits and tap into international markets. It may seem like a daunting task, but the costs of being left behind could be far more damaging to businesses' longevity if they leave it too late. 

Dan O'Sullivan

Dan O’Sullivan is Make It Cheaper's Web Content Manager, which means much of his time is dedicated to ensuring we have plenty of online material to help business owners understand the energy, insurance and telecoms industries. With years of experience working alongside SMEs, Dan is committed to making life as easy as possible for smaller firms. You can email Dan at

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