6 out of 10 UK SMBs will be Trading Internationally by 2016

This represents a 20% increase on the number of UK SMBs currently selling or sourcing products and services abroad. Over the next two years, the 2,000 UK SMBs surveyed in 11 regions project that their international business relationships will increase in both scope and importance to their business.

  • 20% expect to increase the number of countries they trade with by 2016
  • 28% expect revenue from international sales to increase by 2016
  • Nearly three quarters of those trading internationally say international business partners will be important to their business in 2016, over two fifths that they will be very important.

However, the report indicates that many UK SMBs are still not convinced by the benefits of international trading. The two biggest reasons cited for not doing more international business were that products or services weren’t relevant to trading internationally and there is more opportunity for growth locally.

The study highlights how UK SMBs are increasingly building relationships in new and emerging markets, as communication technologies and global logistics networks reduce the barriers to trade. Of those currently selling internationally almost one in two sell through the business’ own websites and a growing number are using online marketplaces.

While Europe and North America continue to dominate international trading relationships, at least one in ten UK SMBs say they are doing business outside of these markets. Significantly, younger SMB managers are more likely to be trading with emerging markets than those aged 45 and over.

These younger SMB managers are more positive on expectations for revenue growth and expansion in numbers of countries they trade with. They are also pioneering new social and digital communications channels to build and maintain relationships with international business partners, highlighting the role an increasingly networked world is playing in enabling SMBs to work with international partners.

However, younger SMB managers are also more likely to have employees on the ground in local markets, underlining the continuing importance of a local presence.

Technology and marketing services companies are the most bullish on expectations for international expansion and revenue growth. Nearly four in ten IT and Telecoms SMBs expect to increase revenues from international sales by 2016, whilst over a third expect to increase the number of countries they trade with. Unsurprisingly, it is also the sector most likely to use video conferencing to communicate with partners while marketing services SMBs are among the heaviest users of social networks.

Emma Jones, Founder of Enterprise Nation and organiser of the Go Global small business trade mission to New York on 25th September, agrees that International is fast becoming the de facto trading position for the UK’s small businesses: “With over two billion people and millions of businesses now online across the globe, it has never been easier for small businesses to trade internationally. In an increasingly digital world, many of today’s start-ups are thinking globally from day one and reaping the benefits, however there are also many small businesses that aren’t online and aren’t exploring the potential of international trade. Whether you’re a small business owner looking to take your first international order or expand into emerging markets there’s a wealth of advice, support and funding available to help you make your ambitions a reality.”

Simon Bullingham, CEO, We are Journey (a Brand & Marketing agency based in the UK) said: “Expanding our international footprint is crucial to our business as we specialise in delivering digital consultancy to hospitality and tourism clients. We know we have the technologies in place to work with international clients and partners, but the real challenge, as a small business owner is knowing where to go to access the right advice and support to start exploring new markets. We’re excited to be part of Enterprise Nation’s unique trade mission to New York to gain exposure to the right expertise so that we can make decisions faster and accelerate the international growth of our business.”

Andrew Millard, Senior Director, International Marketing, Citrix said: “Our research shows that international trade and technology innovation are intrinsically linked, and those that embrace communications tools are better equipped to build relationships with international trade partners. At Citrix, we are proud to be part of Enterprise Nation’s Go Global campaign and we look forward to discovering what international trade might look like in 2016 – and how the larger businesses of this world might learn from their smaller counterparts.”

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