Can you afford not to go global?
According to a recent report by IMRG Capgemini, the UK is the top ranking net exporter of e-commerce in the world- bringing in £2.80 in exports for every £1 imported. Hardly surprising when recent research shows that internet sales increased by 24% in the course of the last year alone; massive returns which reflect the growing trend to take business online.
The internet has earned its place as an intrinsic part of the economy according to Matt Brittin, the Managing Director of Google for the UK and Ireland, who commented-
“Now for the first time we can see how its adoption by British business has become a major contributor to the UK’s GDP and that the internet is a central pillar of the UK’s economy,”
These comments are encouraging, but they should also be a cause for more serious reflection. Industry cannot afford to ignore the fact that the internet now underpins the UK’s economy in a vital way; outperforming sectors such as restaurants, utilities, construction, and transportation. Another report by the Boston Consulting Group shows that companies selling online saw a yearly growth rate of 4% while those who did not offer a transactional service remained static or grew just a little. Now more than ever, businesses need to invest resources in growing an online strategy before they are overtaken by younger companies who were quicker to take the plunge.
So how are businesses making the move online so successfully? Well, they’re building powerful brand identities with the use of social media. 30% of UK companies now have a social media page and 25% have corporate blogs or use Twitter to update their customers.
In addition, let’s not forget that the internet is global. Out of the 100 million additional internet users each year, 72% don’t speak English- so it’s not just a question of an online presence, businesses are increasingly waking up to the fact that they need to speak the language of their target markets too. The average number of languages supported by large multi nationals has increased from 12 to 20 in 5 years. Facebook, for example now supports over 70 languages compared with just two languages when the site launched. Apple has doubled the number of languages available on their website in the last year- from 12 to 24.
Choosing which languages to invest in is also an important consideration. 28% of internet users are English speaking, which is a substantial figure, yes- but did you know that 22% of internet users speak Chinese? A massive and largely untapped market surely exists here for UK businesses.
Plus, let’s not forget basic accessibility, currently only 29% of UK businesses accept online payments, which seems low when we know that 30% have a social media page. With the profits already garnered from e-commerce being so high this shows amazing potential for the future as the number of sites offering an online checkout increases.
In the current economic climate e-commerce is proving to be a real beacon of hope, showing massive growth levels, and no signs of dying down for the foreseeable future as internet businesses are likely to double their economic contribution in the next five years.
Boston Consulting Group: The Connected Kingdom, How the internet is transforming the UK economy: http://www.bcg.com/documents/file62983.pdf
Yunker, John: The Art of the Global Gateway, Strategies for Successful Multilingual Navigation, Byte Level Books, One internet, many languages, Page 10
IMRG/Capgemini Sales Index: October 2010