February 11 ,2015 | by Claire Payne

British e-commerce trade surplus highest in the world

British e-commerce trade surplus

Britain comes top of the charts in online trade and e-commerce, with a surplus that is larger than any other nation in the world.

The UK’s trade balance in the e-commerce industry is bigger than any other nation in the world, according to research from OC&C strategy consultants in collaboration with Google. In fact, with a trade surplus of over $1 billion, the UK brings in the most money through online retailing in the world.

It’s a positive sign for the UK economy and promises a welcoming environment for British businesses that are looking to get into exporting. Furthermore, the research suggests that online cross-border trade is expected to grow fivefold over the next seven years to reach $130 billion, as the retail sector becomes increasingly global and interconnected.


E-commerce set for success

Now is the time for British businesses to expand their reach overseas if they wish to take advantage of several government initiatives that are designed to boost exporting, especially as research shows that internet connectivity should surpass three billion people this year and half of the world’s population by 2020.

"The global increase in the number of people with internet access coupled with a rise in consumer confidence, combine to provide the ideal market conditions for e-commerce,” said Peter Fitzgerald, director at Google.

“The success of UK retailers can partly be attributed to operating in the most advanced e-commerce market in the world, but also to the high level of trust international customers have in UK brands and retailers,” he added.


Domestic demand on the up

It’s not only the world that are looking to buy British products. As wage growth continues to outstrip inflation we should see consumer purchasing power increase and this will hopefully fuel a boom in consumer spending that should boost the economy.

In fact, recent data from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) highlighted that e-commerce growth went into the double digits in January this year, fueled by a rush to take advantage of the New Year sales.

Online sales of non-food products rose by 11.7 per cent in January, when compared to the same time last year, and e-commerce accounted for 18.4 per cent of non-food sales. This frenzy of web-based shopping helped push overall retail sales into positive territory in January, which further illustrates the importance of e-commerce for the UK’s economy.

“As websites continue to improve, including ease of use on mobile devices, with more stock being listed online, it is not a surprise that we loved buying online this January,” said Helen Dickinson, director general of the BRC.

“Retailers who have invested in an omnichannel strategy will certainly take comfort in these figures.”


Strategy for the cross-border digital world

If e-commerce businesses wish to capitalise on the burgeoning web-based retail sector, they will need to implement a strategy that increasingly focuses on the digital sector. They will have to make it easy for users to access websites from a variety of devices and offer a variety of languages that shoppers can choose from.

Furthermore, if it’s not easy for foreign customers to checkout and pay for items using their own currency, retailers can expect to lose a huge amount of business.

Strategies and marketing activity will need to be localised in order to gain better customer relevance. But firstly, all retailers need to do is make sure they have properly set up an online presence.

“Looking to the future, any retailer wishing to enter the market must adopt a digital-first strategy to succeed," said Peter Fitzgerald.

Claire Payne

Claire Payne is a journalism graduate and News Writer for LSBF. She writes about SMEs, education and careers, entrepreneurship, women in business, and sustainability.

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