Online marketplace sellers add £11bn to UK economy from exports

Cebr report finds growing band of online sellers critical to growing exports post-Brexit

A growing army of UK small businesses unlocked £11bn in UK export growth in 2016 by trading internationally on online marketplaces like Amazon and eBay, a new report commissioned by international payment experts WorldFirst has found. The report also forecasts that international sales amongst this group could double to £21.3bn by 2020 – equivalent to almost 20 times the annual budget of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

The report, The Rise of the Global iStreet, was conducted by the Centre for Economics & Business Research (Cebr) and identifies a new generation of ‘iStreet sellers’, small businesses with less than 50 employees that are selling goods and services using online marketplaces.

More than half (55 per cent) of iStreet sellers said they had experienced growth in the last 12 months, with 29 per cent experiencing revenue growth of 20 per cent or more. Almost one in ten (nine per cent) also saw their total revenues from exports increase by more than £500,000.

Two in five (40 per cent) of all businesses that sell online are trading internationally and a quarter of these businesses do so through online marketplaces. This growing group have the potential to power the UK’s economy and trading relationship with the rest of the world. The EU is the most popular trading destination for online sellers, with 86 per cent of businesses trading with the bloc, followed by the United States (66 per cent). 

Marketplaces: a low-risk gateway to the world

This growth is being supported by the use of online marketplaces which are helping small businesses target new customers in new international markets whilst enabling them to compete with both bigger and local businesses. Platforms such as eBay and Amazon are used by a quarter (25 per cent) of businesses

selling online, with the report also finding that one in five (20 per cent) of all small businesses in Britain intend to expand their presence on marketplaces in the coming year.

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