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Why UK Retailers Should Sell More Abroad

The UK’s independent retailers are missing a trick if you don't look for customers beyond UK borders. Demand is high for British goods and barriers to markets are falling, so what are you waiting for?

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The UK’s independent retailers are missing a trick if you don't look for customers beyond UK borders. Demand is high for British goods and barriers to markets are falling, so what are you waiting for?

Opinions

Why UK Retailers Should Sell More Abroad

The UK’s independent retailers are missing a trick if you don't look for customers beyond UK borders. Demand is high for British goods and barriers to markets are falling, so what are you waiting for?

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The UK’s independent retailers are in a unique position to benefit from international trading. The UK’s reputation for quality merchandise and classic design can benefit smaller retailers if they can open up to European and global customers online.

Lightspeed has seen its own customers reach out across regional borders and has acquired Amsterdam-based software company SEOshop, and launched Lightspeed eCOM today, its new eCommerce platform, to offer the UK retailers the same opportunities.

Selling to international clients is more complex than simply boxing products and sending to a more distant address. Each country in Europe, for example, has its own legal requirements, tax rules, website regulations, payment and shipping idiosyncrasies. The thought of taking this on for small businesses can seem too daunting. But it doesn’t need to be.

It may not seem simple to extend your shop to an online audience. Can you keep the unique feeling you’ve worked hard to create in store? Can you handle the complexities of opening up to audiences from all over the world? Can you justify the effort it’s going to take when you could just be a small fish diving into the world’s biggest pond?

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It's a big world out there - time to start exploring

It’s all about bringing what you do best to a bigger audience and sticking to what you know:

1.     Focus on your retail speciality

From your own experience as a retailer you’ll have a view already on the type of people who buy your products, what you’re known for and what are your best sellers. Your online presence should be a credible extension of that reputation.

Going online shouldn’t need to be a completely new direction for your business, just a way of reaching out to a wider audience.  35% of our retail clients sell to more than one country.  And those shops that are selling abroad include smaller businesses and niche stores.

If you’ve got a reputation for finding must-have items in the nick of time, or supplying hard-to-find replacement parts then you’ll be popular to an international audience. Think about what you sell that has best helped you grow your business and consider taking that to many more customers.

2.     Retain your own style

Make use of your existing colour schemes, any visual identity you already have and the style you’ve developed since opening. You don’t need to be a top class programmer or web designer to make a positive impression online.

Use templates as a starting point but keep your own store in mind as inspiration. Customers like to get to know their favourite brands and those people who shop in your store will feel comfortable sharing links to your online outlet if they instantly recognise your own distinct brand.

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How will you make your brand stand out?

3.     Make use of search engine optimisation to promote your goods

Going online is only going to improve your turnover if people can find you easily. If you’re using an automated eCommerce system, insist that it has SEO optimisation tools built in.  One of our customers in The Netherlands has been selling sports apparel to customers from Australia, Russia, France and Italy.

Their far-flung customers would never have found them if their customers’ online searches hadn’t pointed them in the right direction.  Think of the words you use when you’re uploading your products online.  Are these the words that people all around the world will search for?

4.     Link in-store to online

You don’t have time to double up on admin so link your shop to your online store. Your inventory needs to be well-coordinated so that you don’t sell something online that’s already been sold in store. Technology helps you do this of course, but you also need to be disciplined in store and make sure all your staff know how to update records.

A live system that incorporates online and in-store purchases helps you restock efficiently, decide on what to put on sale and helps you keep your head above water.

5.     Keep your promises

If you agree to deliver before Christmas, or say you’ll get back in touch with a customer when an out-of-stock product becomes available then make sure you do. A reputation online can turn sour easily if your customers share dissatisfaction on social media.

Going online puts you into a great space for social media sharing. You can encourage buyers to share images and sale items as they’re browsing your online store or at the point of making a purchase. An endorsement from a personal contact is the best kind of marketing you can get.

Even our smallest European retailers can experience over a third of their online sales coming from other countries. The complexity of trading across borders can seem like too big a hurdle but don’t be daunted.  Retailers who can ship their goods to online customers can spread risk and succeed.

English is the most spoken language across the planet. Take advantage of that and open your mind and your shop to the world.

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Why UK Retailers Should Sell More Abroad

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