The latest Markit/CIPS purchasing managers index showed that manufacturing growth slowed down slightly in February. But this headline slowdown doesn’t tell the full story.

Demand for British manufactured exports increased again this month thanks in a large part to the weakened pound. February marked the ninth consecutive month that demand for UK exports increased.

Rising export demand went some way towards offsetting a slowdown in the rate of growth from domestic buyers.

Lee Hopley, chief economist at EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation said: “Export demand gained further ground in February, offsetting a bit of a slowdown in the rate of growth in the domestic market.

“This is likely to be a sign of things to come as consumer facing sectors are more challenged than other manufacturing sectors as rising inflation eats into household incomes.”

With consumer spending putting the brakes on domestic demand, and little sign of a pound rebound, UK manufacturers may be thinking about expanding into international markets.

Get funding to sell internationally

If you make your own products, then you may be able to secure UKTI funding for an international sales campaign.

Contact us for details

Five steps to sell more products internationally online

Boosting your international operation takes good planning, online technical know-how and fair amount of nit picking detail.

The Artlab has put together five top tips to help manufacturers sell more products internationally online.

1
Identify key opportunities

As with a lot of new business ventures, effective market research is a key starting place. Even if you aren’t actively selling abroad already, you have likely seen some orders in the past.

Look at past international orders, identify which countries they came from, what kind of companies they are and, if possible, how they found you.

This will be a good starting place and will help you answer a few important questions before you get your international sales push off the ground.

Do you receive a lot of website visits or orders from a particular country? Do international orders come from regional distributors or local sales agents, or are they usually from direct customers? Are your targets likely to speak English, or will you have to translate some of your communication materials?

These are all important questions that you should answer before planning communications and target market segments.

2
Evaluate your product range

If your eCommerce shop has a lot of products, then you might want to identify which products you think will sell best abroad.

Big and bulky products will be more expensive to ship and this could put some potential customers off. Therefore, you may want to consider concentrating on smaller products, at least in the initial stages of your international sales push.

You should also consider how your products will sit in the local market. There may be regulations that govern your product in a particular country, or your products may be liable to tariffs in certain countries.

In addition, cultural differences abroad may have an impact on the demand for your product there.

Again, research is the key to making sure your products hit the right mark abroad.

3
Site structure

To sell overseas your website needs to be found by internet users in different countries. One way of boosting international visibility is ranking higher in international search engine results.

Optimising your website to appear in different countries can be difficult, especially since Google started weighting location-specific searches more highly in their search results.

Here, the internet ‘architecture’ of your site is important. There are three ways of laying out your site for selling internationally:

  • Country specific, aka ccTLDs – (example.co.uk or example.nl)
  • Subdomains – (netherlands.example.com)
  • Subdirectories with gTLDs (example.com/nl)

Some international customers will prefer to buy from websites that are tailored to their local market (such as .nl, .fr, .de websites). And some SEO practitioners argue that these websites enjoy get click through rates.

A country specific domain might be a more logical move if you already have a .co.uk URL.

However, starting a new website from scratch means that you will lose all your website’s accrued domain authority, and it could take a long time to load back up again. Successful international ranking can be done with just one website.

4
Optimise your website for different languages

You don’t just need to optimise your website to be found in different countries, it also needs to be automated to be found in different languages.

You will always get some foreign users coming to your website if it is in English, but if you are actively pursuing international customers then you should seriously consider having your website, or at least some key pages, translated into different languages.

If you want to be taken seriously by international buyers you should stay away from automated translators like Google Translate. If you really want to sell internationally then a professional translation service is the only way to go.

Your research should have told you which languages and pages to concentrate on first.

You should use Hreflang tags on foreign language pages to alert Google and other search engines that those pages are duplicates in a foreign language.

For more help with Hreflang tags please contact a member of The Artlab team. Call: 0161 974 0974.

5
PPC

PPC is a quick way of tapping into new global markets. It is a paid form of advertising, but as long as the profit earned on products outweighs your PPC budget, it is a good way of doing it abroad.

Check out our blog post on how to get a Google Shopping campaign off the ground for as little as £100.

PPC can be done on lots of different platforms including search engines like Google and Bing, and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. These platforms have different user levels in different countries. In China for example, access to Facebook is restricted and Google is not the dominant search engine.

It is important that your PPC strategy reflects the different user levels in different countries.