The UK has emerged as the world’s leading exporter of goods purchased online, new research has found.
The UK had a trade surplus of over US$1 billion (£604m) in 2013, while the US and Germany are the nearest challengers with $180m and $35m trade surpluses respectively, an OC&C Strategy Consultants study found.
The study, which was produced in partnership with Google, said that cross-border online trade for six of the biggest e-commerce markets is expected to grow fivefold over the next seven years, from $25 billion in 2013 to $130 billion in 2020.
The study estimates the value of online retail trade based on Google searches in six of the biggest e-commerce markets, making up half of global e-commerce volumes: the UK, the US, Germany, the Nordics, the Netherlands and France. It has found that the retail sector is becoming increasingly global and interconnected as trade between countries is growing exponentially.
Google director Peter Fitzgerald said: "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. 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. Looking to the future, any retailer wishing to enter the market must adopt a digital-first strategy to succeed."
The study said that a number of specialist retailers have shown that they can internationalise successfully through digital commerce – in some cases, by establishing a combination of a digital and a physical presence. These include online ‘pureplays’ such as ASOS, iHerb and Zalando; multichannel retailers such as Sephora and Pandora; and luxury and sport brands such as Burberry, Hugo Boss, Adidas and Lacoste.
OC&C partner Anita Balchandan emphasised the importance of localisation, from tailoring the offer to localised marketing activity, to ensuring that delivery and payment methods are best suited to country requirements. “For example SmartGuy, an online fashion e-retailer in the Nordics, has successfully expanded across Europe through thinking and acting local. Its marketing team delivers local campaigns which translate into demonstrable improvements in sales,” she said.
"It is equally critical to localise only where it matters to customers, to avoid the cost and complexity of over-tailoring the retail offer by country. ASOS, for instance, services customers around the world from a single location in the UK but executes its digital marketing activity in a localised way, allowing it to strike the right balance between customer relevance and cost.