Business development · 22 September 2015

Why are so many UK businesses missing opportunities in the global ecommerce market?

More than half of British firms were trying to trade internationally but fell short of establishing a fully optimised presence in their target markets.
More than half of British firms were trying to trade internationally but fell short of establishing a fully optimised presence in their target markets.

According to research by Search Laboratory, the majority of UK businesses feel they are missing chances when it comes to global ecommerce, and many are failing to optimise their business offering internationally.

The survey of 500 respondents found that 52 per cent of businesses were trying to trade internationally but were falling short of establishing a fully optimised presence in their target markets.

Online was recognised as a crucial route to overseas growth – 83 per cent of firms said their online presence was important here, though only a third of those trading digitally abroad were doing so in the local language.

Some 67 per cent were attempting to trade internationally but only use English as a language, with one central website, which the report said can make the buying experience confusing for potential customers.

Ian Harris, the CEO of Search Laboratory, said: “If businesses are going to truly take hold of the huge opportunities available in the global ecommerce market, they’re going to have to treat their international offerings with as much care and attention as they do their UK business.”

He warned that it wasn’t enough to “roughly translate a clone of your UK site – you need to research your audience’s differences and tailor it specifically to them”.

A firm’s prominence on the search engine results pages is important to being discovered in new geographic markets and attracting new customers. The report noted a major requirement for attracting global custom is adopting a strategy purposely adapted to the market’s dominating search engine and tailored towards the user’s specific needs.

For UK businesses looking to develop abroad, this involves building an understanding of native spoken language, geography and culture, and “building this understanding into every step of its online engagement with international customers”.

The research highlighted that search habits and terms vary from country to country and it is important to optimise for the most profitable keywords and phrases – those with the most intent. The order of the language is another consideration – are sentences read right to left or left to right, and are you tailoring your approach accordingly?

Another example of a difference is the use of the most popular search engine in China – Baidu – which has a strong emphasis on paid search campaigns, as audiences there tend to trust the paid adverts over organic results. Researching this sort of information is important – a business looking to enter the Chinese market should therefore consider a paid search campaign and an accompanying SEO campaign.

The report also outlined central aspects of in-country promotion – you should conduct a regular screening of a market’s news sites and key influencers to gauge how your content fits into current news and trends. Make sure you know who is the correct person to pitch your content to and research their past articles, as well as picking their preferred communication medium.

Additionally, building media relationships is important for any PR campaign. Failure to address these criteria due to “a lack of understanding and cultural insight” will mean you are likely to encounter challenges in a new market.

Search Laboratory’s study reflected that UK businesses were interested in seeking increased revenue from global markets and also reliant on this expansion. Too many though, are failing to consider the impact of their non-localised, English-only websites and campaigns are having on their profitability.

Sign up to our newsletter to get the latest from Business Advice.


 
TAGS:

ABOUT THE EXPERT

Rebecca is a reporter for Business Advice. Prior to this, she worked with a range of tech, advertising, media and digital clients at Propeller PR and did freelance work for The Telegraph.

Q&A

If you’ve found the article above useful, but have a more detailed and bespoke question, then please feel free to submit a query to our expert. We at Business Advice will get in contact with them on your behalf and arrange for a personalised response. These questions and answers will then be collated on the site for any other readers who have similar queries.

Ask a question

From the top