UKTI aiding UK retailers' international online ventures

UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) said this week that its e-Exporting Programme is gaining momentum and a number of retailers are benefiting from the government-led scheme.

The initiative, which was launched in September last year and provides a single platform of information on B2C and B2B e-marketplaces, was established to aid retailers looking to export their goods online to international markets. Edward Donald, omnichannel/eCommerce specialist at UKTI, said on Thursday that the programme is effectively offering UK businesses "a buffet table" where they can pick the marketplace or the marketplaces suitable to their requirements when exporting their brands.

He suggested that the overall proposition stands out from previous governmental export schemes because UKTI's assistance continues once the connection between retailer and marketplace has been made.

UKTI asks its retail partners to value the government's contribution to export sales, and Donald says the results suggest the accumulative incremental increase in revenue generated by the government body's involvement in the first six months of the programme stood at £115 million. It has also added value of £350 million in the financial year to date.

"We have taken the brand asset which is called 'Great' [displayed on a union jack] – a government-owned asset – and we're using it on campaigns on marketplaces," Donald explained.

"This has a number of different roles to play; it builds on the insight that lots of people are looking for British brands, so we can stoke up interest in brands as they come to market. It also benefits the UK brands that are already on e-marketplaces and helps aggregate their audiences and drive their businesses."

UKTI has formed commercial relationships with e-marketplaces around the globe, including Amazon, Tmall and eBay, but the department has identified 400 potential marketplace partners worldwide.

Donald was talking at the Fashion Without Borders event, hosted by eCommerce managed services provider Pentagon in association with UKTI, and held at the Grand Connaught Rooms in London.

Speakers included the worldwide director for Chinese direct sales marketplace, Qingfei Xu, who mapped out the commerce potential existing in China today.

Citing iResearch data, Xu highlighted the thirst for eCommerce in China, with its 649 million web users and 316 million people who shop online – effectively half of those who can access the internet in the country. In addition, the B2C online shopping market in China reportedly grew by 68.7% in 2014.

Another region of growing interest to UK retailers is the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) territory. The CEO of online marketplace Marka VIP, Ahmed Alkhatib, drew attention to the young population in this geographical area.

Nearly two-thirds of the market is under the age of 25 and 43% of this demographic buy online once a month, according to Wamda statistics. Alkhatib said that almost two-thirds of this demographic are making cross-border purchases as local offerings do not always meet their needs.

The clear message emphasised by multiple speakers throughout the course of the day was there is substantial overseas demand for international retail products, which in turn presents significant opportunities for UK retailers and the wider business community in global territories.

And Donald is confident the UK government is now playing a proactive role in pushing its local brands and businesses to new markets. For companies looking to sell online for the first time, joining the e-Exporting Programme can also see them get help with trademark and website URL registration, landed cost calculation, packaging, shipping, and other services.

He said: "Hopefully what we're seeing here is a very clear line of sight between opportunities that sit overseas, the sort of companies you could consider engaging with to open up that opportunity and how government has moved beyond just bringing the opportunity to you but also helps market your brand overseas, using a union jack, which we know is a go-to symbol for consumers overseas."

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UKTI e-Exporting Programme