The UK’s e-commerce sector generated an estimated trade surplus of £720 million in 2013, according to research out today from OC&C Strategy Consultants and Google.
The report, titled The Global Retail Empire, analysed Google searches across six key e-commerce markets that account for half of global online retail sales in terms of search volumes. The countries include the US, the UK, Germany, the Nordics, the Netherlands.
The report found that UK retailers sell more goods overseas via the internet than are bought by British consumers from e-commerce businesses outside Britain.
“The Google search data provided a unique insight into what proportion of traffic is from overseas,” said OC&C Strategy partner Anita Balchandani. “We also obtained proprietary access to shipments data to show parcel volumes.”
The UK ran the biggest surplus, followed by the US, with £110 million, and Germany, with £12 million.
The UK’s e-commerce success can be attributed in part to the fashion sector where brands such as Net-a-porter, ASOS and Farfetch rank among the top 20 most sought after retailers by international buyers. Meanwhile, Burberry, Dr Martens and Barbour were found to be the most searched for British brands overseas.
“Global searching is becoming the new norm in retail,” said Balchandani. “Consumers around the world use the internet as a global shop window. What used to be a local, national market is now a global one.
“The UK is home to brands that are loved and trusted around the world but we are also unbeatable on service and price,” she added. “We offer more payment methods, languages and shipment options that any other nation.”
The report also predicted that online trade between these leading e-commerce countries will increase from £15 billion in 2013 to £79 billion in 2020.
Peter Fitzgerald, director at Google, said: “We have seen a significant increase in the volume of searches for British retailers and brands coming from overseas. The majority of non-UK searches are currently coming from Europe, followed by North America and Asia, driven by the increased popularity of British brands abroad. Retailers can use search data to identify pockets of demand and move quickly to meet the needs of customers.”