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Long gone are the days when international trade was just the preserve of big businesses.

More small online businesses are expanding into new markets with increasing vigour. This creates a domino effect of job creation across different sectors, from manufacturing and services to procure more products, to logistics and delivery firms shipping more goods.

This is good news for small business, and good news for Britain. If we are to hit the country’s 2020 target of £1trillion exports, the UK’s online small businesses will play a crucial role.

The true innovators of retail

In my job looking after over 200,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) on the eBay UK marketplace, I see every day how firms use their entrepreneurial spirit and agility to export millions of British goods abroad – even without the infrastructure of a traditional exporter.

Small businesses are vital to the UK economy. They can make rapid decisions, price competitively and adapt quickly to meet changing consumer demand - the true innovators of UK retail.

New research we’ve released as part of our Small Business Optimism Index shows that 93% of eBay’s small businesses fulfilled overseas sales in 2015, with each exporting to an average of 20 different territories, compared with just 28% of businesses without an online presence.

Businesses like electrical goods specialists Electrolve. Electrolve export to 127 markets from its headquarters in Grimsby, North Lincolnshire. International trade has now grown to 60% of their total sales.

Traditional bricks and mortar businesses like car parts supplier Volksbits. A family business since 1968, employing three generations, they now sell car parts around the world and have a workforce of 30 from their workshop in Birmingham.

But there are also businesses that haven’t made the leap just yet. When asked what my advice to them would be, I’d say:

  1. Take advantage of cool Britannia
The UK has an excellent reputation around the world when it comes to retail. UK brands and businesses are held in high esteem, so use this to your advantage. Make it clear where you’re based and capitalise on selling the best of British – for example, British fashion is in particular demand.
  1. Streamline payment
Distance is no object with globalised exporting, but if customers can’t pay for their goods easily, they won’t buy from you. Make sure you accept international payment methods such as credit cards and payment platforms like PayPal.
  1. Be ship-shape
Consumers are looking for speedy delivery (10-14 days), low cost, and reliable shipping services. eBay sellers can enroll for free into the Global Shipping Programme; international postage charges and any applicable customs charges are automatically shown on listings, and paid by buyers. Parcels can simply be posted to the UK Shipping Centre using your usual postage service along with a tracking code, and parcels can then be tracked by both buyer and seller.
  1. Leverage language
In the European market, language translation and local online platforms are key to engaging foreign audiences. While shared languages, such as the US, Australia and Canada make entering these markets easier, remember to consider how consumers abroad search for your products – replace colour with color, for example.

By Kit Glover, Director of Professional Selling & Cross Border Trade at eBay UK