Insurance · 24 November 2015

Chinese buyers driving UK’s ranking as third biggest online exporter worldwide

A Hong Kong shopping centre
A Hong Kong shopping centre

Britain is the third biggest global online exporter, behind the US and China, according to new research from Paypal.

British goods have been increasingly in demand among foreign shoppers, with 86.4m buying from the UK in the last 12 months, as a range of new markets made their interest in UK products known. Nigeria and India had 5.8m and 4.9m online buyers going British in the last year – behind China (21.9m), USA (9.1m), France and Germany (six million each) for the UK’s top online export markets.

The PayPal and Ipsos survey covered 23,354 adults over 29 countries and found that Chinese buyers were responsible for a quarter of British exports.

PayPal’s UK MD Cameron McLean, told The Telegraph there were “clear lessons for British businesses” from the figures.

“Your customers expect to shop on websites in their own language and want to pay in their own currencies – and may buy from your rivals if you don’t offer that experience,” he said.

While the government predicts UK online retail exports will reach £60bn by 2018, analysts at PayPal have warned of foreign buyers being less likely to buy products if delivery is too expensive or takes too long. Charging too much for returning items is also a way to put people off.

McLean said: “Britain is punching well above its weight when it comes to global ecommerce. Yet there are still a wealth of opportunities out there for any company willing to look beyond traditional markets and sales channels.”

He thinks the ones which will be the most successful will be those that target “less established, high-growth markets whilst also setting themselves up to capitalise on the vast, borderless potential of mobile”.

His tip for cracking the great potential of the Chinese market was to engage with customers through “hugely popular Chinese social media and messaging channels such as WeChat”.

Some 59 per cent of Chinese consumers bought British clothing, accessories and footwear last year while 57 per cent had bought cosmetics and other beauty products.

The research found 42 per cent of Chinese shoppers bought UK groceries, food and drink, attracted by the authenticity of the products and higher payment security offered.

It also indicated that first impressions count for fans of ecommerce. More than half of Chinese shoppers returned to a website they had used previously and keeping on top of special seasonal days could also see UK businesses reap the rewards. Chinese consumers said they were 43 per cent more likely to buy from foreign websites during the Christmas period, Black Friday and Singles’ day.

Image: Shutterstock

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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.


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