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8/10 exporters say overseas trade boosts innovation and product offering

New research shows that international trade creates a wide array of surprising knock-on benefits for exporters beyond simply increasing revenue and resilience.

Alibaba Group and the Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT) surveyed the views of more than 3,000 UK businesses to explore the hopes and concerns of companies as they consider exporting and the role of online marketplaces in supporting first-time exporters.

The resulting report proves the benefits of exporting are far more wide-ranging than most would assume. As well as the vast majority of exporters agreeing that overseas trade boosted their revenue and eased the pressure of doing business in the UK, the report also found that:

  • 82 per cent said it boosts product innovation
  • 80 per cent said it had inspired them to widen their product range
  • 81 per cent said it had accelerated the digital transformation of their business
  • 79 per cent said it had led to an increased headcount.

However, the research shows that SMEs are lagging behind larger businesses when it comes to seizing these benefits, with around a quarter of the SMEs surveyed not currently exporting.

The most commonly reported barriers for those looking to become first-time exporters were supply chain and logistical challenges (22 per cent), increased paperwork and red tape (20 per cent) and price competition (20 per cent). A lack of cultural awareness of overseas markets, in-house exporting expertise and difficulties finding a trusted export partner are also common obstacles.

Marco Forgione, Director General of IOE&IT, commented:

“This research both confirms what we have long known – that exporting firms are more sustainable, profitable and resilient – but also sheds light on the challenges preventing businesses from exporting at all or exporting as much as they could.”

Demystifying Exporting for Manufacturers

Government support available for businesses considering exporting for the first time includes the UK Export Academy, which offers free, comprehensive training for SMEs to learn how to sell to customers and secure contracts around the world with confidence.


SMEs in Greater Manchester can also benefit from one-to-one guidance from our expert team of Manufacturing Advisors. Speak to our team today to get started.

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