Scottish businesses could be missing out on the chance to grow on an international scale, according to new research from ecommmerce marketplace giants Alibaba Group.
The study of more than 2,000 UK businesses found that almost half (47%) of Scottish businesses agree exporting is a viable opportunity – but are concerned about the challenges of cross-border trade.
The biggest perceived barrier to trading abroad is increased paperwork and customs rules (31%), followed by supply chain issues (27%) and concerns about payment security or late payments (27%). Meanwhile, a quarter (25%) of businesses surveyed highlighted shipping costs as another key obstacle to exporting overseas.
Against this backdrop, the findings show that 44% of Scottish businesses surveyed believe they would benefit from professional advice from an export advisor to help them expand and succeed on the global stage. Two fifths (41%) of respondents say more country-specific exporting information would enable them to export overseas, while 39% say more access to overseas marketing information would help them fulfil their export potential.
Amongst Scottish businesses surveyed that do currently export overseas, 86% say they expect their export sales to increase in the next 12 months. Nearly half (49%) are conducting more international sales online because it is more cost effective, while 47% have made the switch because it removes the need to travel.
The demand for Scotland’s products across the globe has been highlighted in recent figures released by Scottish Development International (SDI). The support provided by SDI to companies across Scotland in the past financial year will result in £1.44bn of planned international sales over the next three years.
Roland Palmer, general manager of UK, Benelux and Nordics, Alibaba Group, said: “While it can be daunting to enter a new market, the opportunity for Scottish businesses to ‘go global’ could have a transformative impact on their future growth. By trading internationally, businesses of all sizes are able to expand, potentially creating more job opportunities and economic growth. Once a business starts to export, they often find the benefits outweigh the perceived barriers and they grow in confidence. We’re focused on helping Scottish businesses of all sizes on their export journey.
“The highest demand on our global B2B ecommerce platform, Alibaba.com, is in the food and drink, apparel, and beauty/personal care categories – creating a strong proposition for Scottish suppliers who want to reach buyers worldwide.”
Furthermore, in a post Brexit-world, a quarter of Scottish businesses surveyed said North America represents the biggest export opportunity, while 25% highlighted the Middle East.