By Daniel Hunter

Recession-weary and stuck in a 20th century mindset, UK enterprise executives are undervaluing the commercial potential of the internet as a means of attracting overseas revenues, leaving many firms trailing in the race to capitalise on global e-commerce, suggests an independent UK-wide research study and white paper from global search marketing experts, Search Laboratory.

64% of senior decision makers in large UK firms do not consider the internet to be in the top three most important channels for driving overseas trade, despite relying heavily on foreign trade to shore up revenues since the 2008 recession began.

Meanwhile, the global e-commerce sector, projected to drive $1trillion in global internet sales next year, continues to evolve rapidly. Nonetheless, there are some remarkable success stories amongst British firms that are already attuned to international trade on the web, such as online fashion and beauty retailer, ASOS, which routinely reports huge revenue growth from overseas custom and recently announced Q2/12 YOY sales growth in US, EU and ‘rest of world’ countries of 83%, 27% and 61% respectively.

“Looking at British successes online only reinforces the damage being inflicted on our economy by the enterprise sector’s lack of action - senior executives need to open their eyes to online overseas trade while they still have the chance,” comments Ian Harris, CEO, Search Laboratory and author of ‘Web Magnetism: Attracting Global Trade Online’, a new white paper launched offering large UK companies advice on how to make better use of the internet for generating revenues from overseas.

“There is massive opportunity for British firms to benefit from international trade, but they need guidance on what to do to attract and convert foreign customers. Harnessing the commercial power of the internet to support trade in multiple foreign language markets requires highly specialist knowledge, skills and experience - none of which are present in a business that has grown up operating within UK shores alone.

“If the private sector is to stand any chance of offsetting the impact of the government’s austerity measures it can no longer rely on growth from domestic trade,” Harris continues. “Instead, it must create an exports-led springboard to economic recovery. This means embracing the internet as the primary vehicle for attracting global buyers to British products and services. Failure here will mean UK businesses simply get left behind.”

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