Page Loading

Six steps to exporting success

New to exporting? Here's how to get started. We’re here to help navigate the steps your business should take to thrive in the new trading landscape. Lauren Tardito, our Trade Digital Specialist, shares her tips on ecommerce, strategy, documentation requirements and international markets.

Lauren Tardito, Trade Digital Specialist, Scottish Enterprise

Get export ready

Being export ready refers to a company’s capability to export. If you’re thinking of taking the leap, you should first assess the level of demand and opportunity in the export market most relevant to your business.

You can do this by:

  • Conducting market research
  • Visiting the market to gather insights
  • Gathering information on consumer trends and tastes
  • Assessing the level of demand for your product or service
  • Looking at similar products that are available in the market along with the amount consumers are willing to pay

It’s crucial to develop a good understanding of consumer demand when working out prices for your goods, which tend to be higher in international markets. Doing this will ensure you achieve a percentage mark-up mark-up. This could help to make exporting a viable business option for you.

Start selling online

Since the pandemic, when retailers were forced to closed during the lockdowns, online marketplaces have opened a virtual door to an increased number of consumers. Buying and selling goods online (ecommerce) has become the most frequent form of transaction, with 71% of UK shoppers buying more online than they did before March 2020.

The benefits of ecommerce are well established. Selling online can help your business reach a wider range of customers and provides a range of tools you can use to convert interest into real sales and profit.

Many online marketplaces also welcome international sellers and offer cross-border fulfilment operations (services which receive, pack and transport your goods).

Read our guide to selling online

Develop a digital export strategy

Having an international digital strategy in place will help give your company direction and a clearly planned approach to servicing export markets.

Your strategy should map-out:

  • Your company resources
  • What’s needed to service the market you’re targeting
  • Clear milestones and growth plans to improve your chances of success
  • Plans to respond to changes within the market
  • A clear idea of whether you have the resources required to adapt quickly to market changes

If you are completely new to exporting, you may want to join our Preparing to Export online programme. This free learning programme starts with the basics of exporting and ends with the development of your own international business plan.

Learn about our Preparing to Export online programme

Choose your selling platform

Deciding on how you’ll sell your products online is fundamental – many options are available. You could have an ecommerce-ready website or use an online marketplace - you may even do a mixture of both.

It’s always advisable to have a website, even if you choose to only sell on online marketplaces. Once a shopper discovers your product on a marketplace, they tend to look at the seller’s website. Some online marketplaces also require exporters to have an active website before they can become a seller.

You may also choose to use an ecommerce system such as Shopify, which allows you to set up an online store on your website. If you’re selling on multiple online channels, such your own website and online marketplaces, integrated systems can also help sync your channels and product inventory. This means your stock levels are updated live and you’ll never miss an online sale.

The most important thing is to have the right digital systems in place for your business. This will help you to carry out efficient international online sales.

Read our marketplace guides

Drive traffic to increase exports

Once you have the digital systems in place, you should develop a strategy for directing online traffic to your website or your product’s marketplace listing.

There are many ways to do this, such as using social media or local influencers to highlight your product to the target market. You can also use the paid promotional services offered by many online marketplaces.

Improve your website’s SEO

Most consumers use search engines when searching for products, so using SEO (search engine optimisation) will bring you more success.

There are many ways to improve your website’s ranking on search engines, such as regularly maintaining the content of your website, using targeted keywords in your website’s content and metadata, or being featured on other websites.

This may sound daunting if you have no experience in this area – but we can help. We frequently run workshops specifically focused on SEO, as well as sessions on setting up a digital strategy, selling on digital marketplaces, and online marketing.

All our ecommerce workshops are free to attend and run regularly throughout the year, so keep an eye on our events page find out what’s on.

Find workshops on our events page

Research exporting paperwork

Documentation and regulations differ hugely between sectors and export markets, but there are some basics you should keep in mind.

You should:

  • Classify your products using commodity codes
  • Establish your method of exporting using Incoterms (International Commercial terms – an internationally recognised set of rules which set out the responsibilities of all buyers and sellers)
  • Choose which of the 11 different Incoterms is most suitable to use for your export market
  • Provide an export declaration – a form required for all goods leaving the UK

If your company doesn't have the experience or skills to manage your export paperwork in-house, there's a huge range of businesses which can carry out these services for you. In Scotland, most companies appoint a partner who has the expertise to ensure a seamless exporting process.

In addition to general exporting paperwork, you should also pay attention to any regulations that could impact the sales of your products in particular markets. This is particularly important for food and drink companies which have additional rules surrounding ingredients and labelling.

If you're selling a food and drink product, you should research the appropriate authority within that market.

You can research regulatory bodies and legislation that exists in your target market using our export documentation guide

Talk to an expert

Got a question about exporting or ecommerce?

Looking for tips on how to start?

Get expert ecommerce advice