SMEs Shy Away from Overseas Opportunities

SMEs Shy Away from Overseas Opportunities

16th November 2010

Eight out of ten small businesses are not trading internationally despite the opportunities opened up by the internet, research from ecommerce firm Alibaba has revealed.

The Alibaba survey of 1,400 small firms carried out in August 2010 found that 80 per cent were not looking to trade abroad. Those surveyed highlighted their concern about the obstructions they faced — such as the small size of their business or language and cultural barriers.

While it may not be suitable for small firms in some sectors to trade internationally, Alibaba general manager, Maggie Choo, said that many could take advantage of the internet to trade overseas.

“Small businesses believe that they are ill equipped to compete in the global marketplace, but in fact the opposite is true. The internet has opened up a host of opportunities for businesses, however small, to reach out, connect, and trade easily and securely online.”

Founder of business support group Enterprise Nation, Emma Jones, said that barriers exist, but that finding customers and suppliers overseas is easier than most firms realise.

“Firms worry that international trade will be expensive, time-consuming and require a lot of resources. However, it’s a lot easier than it looks.”

“If you have a good online presence, customers will find you, so you only need to make some simple changes. Make sure you respond to enquiries from overseas, and use a free tool such as Google Analytics to find out if you have international traffic. You can then respond by, for example, including prices in the currency your visitors use.”

“The other worry is that there will be a lot of documentation, but the Post Office can help with form filling. We are now facing a flat domestic market, so firms that want to grow will have to look overseas. The weak pound means that our products and services are competitive, so now is a good time.”

UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) chief executive, Sir Andrew Cahn, added:

“Small businesses need not be cut off from the global marketplace or feel that international business is only for big companies. In fact for many smaller firms, trading abroad can be the path to greater success and growth.

“Countries in the Far East are experiencing rapid growth and British goods, in virtually every sector, are in demand for their quality and sophisitication.”

he said.

Firms considering trading abroad can take advantage of the UKTI’s Export Marketing Research Scheme to help them fund their market research, as well as the Overseas Market Introduction Service to see if their product is suitable to export to a particular market.

SMEs Shy Away from Overseas Opportunities

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