One third of UK SMEs risk losing out on vital export opportunities

UK businesses could be missing out on vital export opportunities and the chance to grow on an international scale, according to a new report from Alibaba Group.

The research reveals that 23% of businesses do not export goods overseas, with this figure rising to 33% amongst small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

In addition, 48% of businesses said exporting internationally is a viable opportunity for their business – but they are concerned about the challenges of cross-border trade.

The biggest perceived barrier to trading abroad is increased paperwork and customs rules (28%), followed by supply chain issues (26%) and concerns about payment security or late payments (25%).

Meanwhile, 20% of businesses highlighted a lack of cultural awareness and familiarity with overseas markets.

Against this backdrop, the findings show that 38% of businesses require additional country-specific exporting information to help them expand and succeed on the global stage.

A further 36% say overseas marketing information would help them fulfil their export potential.

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Amongst UK businesses that do currently export overseas, 78% say they expect their export sales to increase in the next 12 months. For businesses focused on B2B exports, this figure rises to 81%.

Online marketplaces are proving valuable, with 92% of businesses working with them to boost their export sales, with 68% saying it’s a key part of their export strategy.

More than half, 54%, are conducting more international sales online because it is more cost effective, while 49% have made the switch so they can reach more potential buyers.

These findings would suggest that online marketplaces are lowering the potential barriers to export.

“While it can be daunting to enter a new market, the opportunity for UK businesses to ‘go global’ could have a transformative impact on their future growth,” Alibaba Group general manager of UK, Nordics and The Netherlands Roland Palmer said.

“By trading internationally, businesses of all sizes are able to expand, potentially creating more job opportunities and economic growth.”

“Once a business starts to export, they often find the benefits outweigh the perceived barriers and they grow in confidence. We’re focused on helping UK businesses of all sizes on their export journey.”

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