I recently came across a report claiming that 30% of all cross border trade in the EU goes through UK ecommerce retailers. Whilst I know that many UK retailers are doing very well with online export sales this figure sounded a bit high.
Although there have been dozens of articles written on UK ecommerce exports most of the figures quoted come back to 2 or 3 pieces of original research.
The first is a report by the Boston Consulting Group which was commissioned by Google in 2010. It reveals that :
- In 2009 the UK internet economy was worth £100 billion, which is about 7.2% of GDP.
- This revenue is not limited to online retailers. In 2008 Business to Business Ecommerce in the UK was worth £360 billion which was 23% of the total purchases by nonfinancial businesses.
- The UK is a net exporter of ecommerce goods and services, exporting £2.80 for every £1 imported.
The second, less widely cited, report was produced in 2011 by internet payment gateway Worldpay. It reveals that:
- More than 1 billion parcels are shipped by UK ecommerce retailers every year.
- SMEs who offer international delivery of products and services through their website report it accounting for 30-40% of income.
The final source is a joint report from the courier company DHL and the British Chambers of Commerce. It is a bit light on facts and figures but does include a widely re-used quote from Phil Couchman, Ceo of DHL Express for the UK and Ireland. He says that
“There are plenty of success stories out there of fledgling companies beginning to
export into foreign markets. An increasing number of UK exporters are seeing
flourishing e-commerce sales to the continent and further afield, specifically
Australia – as disposable income and favourable exchange rates across the Pacific
create inroads for British goods”.
So what can we learn from all of this?
Well first of all, accurate figures for UK ecommerce exports are hard to come by partly because the government does not collect them. The official export statistics are focused on traditional manufacturing and services exports.
Secondly we can see that the UK ecommerce and internet sector are in a very healthy state despite the recent recession. We can also see that for small and medium size companies having the ability to accept international orders through your website can be a very valuable source of sales. As long as you have the infrastructure in place to support it entering the ecommerce export market can be an easy way to grow your revenue.