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65% of UK’s online retailers plan to target international markets

Four in 10 small firms said they would be primarily targeting the US market

In an effort to accelerate growth, 65% of UK small and medium online businesses are aiming to increase international sales over the coming year –Royal Mail’s annual tracker survey has found.

This figure is up two thirds from early 2014 when just 39% of online businesses said they were planning to target international markets – with 84% of companies surveyed saying they had their sights set on countries they did not currently sell to.

With its economy forecast to grow at 3.6% in 2015 – four in 10 (39%) respondents said they would be targeting the US, in comparison to 30% for the Eurozone, which currently has a weakened currency and is expecting only 1.2% growth.

Canada was ranked third by those surveyed as the most likely new international market for UK online retailers, followed by Russia (15%) despite the falling value of the ruble.

Online search activities and targeted direct mail or catalogues were identified as the best way to generate new sales opportunities, with 56% of UK online retailers planning to invest in online search improvements, compared to just 32% the previous year. 47% said they would use targeted direct mail or catalogues, up 10% from 2014.

The news is said to indicate Britain’s increasing confidence as a business hub on the world stage, and shows that even smaller businesses have the potential to generate revenue on an international level and continue to boost the UK economy.

Nick Landon, Royal Mail Parcels managing director, said: “Royal Mail’s annual tracker study of UK small and mid-sized online retailers shows that there is growing confidence that they can grow international sales.”

Henry Williams
Henry Williams

Henry has been writing for since 2015, covering everything from business finance and web builders to tax and red tape. He’s also contributed to many of our industry-renowned annual indexes, including Startups 100 and Young Guns, and created a number of the site’s popular how to guides. Before joining the team, he reviewed films for a culture website, and still harbours ambitions of being a screenwriter.


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  1. It is very positive that UK SMEs are looking for international expansion in 2015, particularly in the US. However, the fact that many of them are planning to use catalogues and direct mail as their major acquistion tool rings alarm bells. The USA has a very established direct marketing industry – in fact that DMA conference attracts over 15,000 delegates annually – and due to the size of The States there are far mor eunscrupulous operators and US doormats are bombarded by mail shots. The UK has a very positive repuation across the pond as being responsible direct marketers, consequently as we expand our exports it is vital we take our data hygiene practices with us. As in the UK, this means screening customer data against the equivalent of Mortascreen (deceased suppression) and SmartDepart (gone away suppression) to ensure the families of the deceased or those that have moved house are not targeted. Not only will such practise minimise brand damage and protect our repuation, but ultimately save money too!