UK online businesses marketing overseas are pushing for growth despite challenging global landscape

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Eighty per cent of businesses that trade overseas plan to grow their global footprint in the next five years, according to new research.

According to the findings, a quarter (23%) of UK-based businesses that trade internationally have experienced an increase in overseas activity and a further quarter have increased their marketing to new international markets since 31st January 2020 – when the UK left the EU.

And digital marketing is a key focus, with 78% of businesses naming social media as the most important marketing tactic for the next 12 months followed by paid digital adverts for 76% of respondents and 76% citing video marketing as a key tool. And tailored marketing is vital with 82% of respondents said that producing content in local language increases website sales and is important to market in overseas territories effectively. 

The research, which was carried out by The Translation People, has revealed the ambitions and marketing plans of international companies and the changes they have made to their operations since Brexit and the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Three-quarters (75%) of international businesses say they have seen an increase in international sales and conversions when marketing materials like their website, social media, packaging and apps are localised into the language of the target audience. 

Commenting on the impact the pandemic had on operations, more than three quarters (77%) said remote working has made them realise they don’t need to travel internationally as regularly, and as such 65% of businesses are actively reducing air travel to lower their carbon emissions. However, this has put greater reliance on online communications channels and services which allow companies to easily liaise with overseas customers and teams.

The findings of the research have now been used in an industry-facing report, which explores the challenges and opportunities currently faced by international businesses and how this is impacting their day-to-day operations.

Alan White, business development director for The Translation People, said: “The last few years have seen a plethora of challenges for businesses. Brexit, the Coronavirus pandemic, war in Ukraine, rising material costs, cost of living crisis and the effects of climate change have combined to create a particularly turbulent landscape. 

“This might have left many business owners wondering what their next steps should be to protect their people, their profits and the planet – but the results of the research actually paint a fairly positive picture of business intention today and online marketing strategy is at the heart of future growth plans.  

“Businesses are focusing on what they know will deliver results, and social media, paid social and video content are high on the list for businesses looking to expand overseas. And the need to speak to people in their own language has been proven. Translation helps businesses capitalise on international trade.”

When it comes to priority services, 67% of businesses said they currently use website and SEO translation while another 16% of businesses plan to use this service for the first time in the next 12 months. This is followed by marketing and design translation, which is currently used by 65% of businesses and will be used by an additional 15% in the next 12 months. Over half (58%) currently use multi-lingual voiceover and subtitling for customer-facing content, with an additional 18% planning to use this service in the next year.

When asked what their biggest barriers were to overseas growth in the next 12 months, almost two in five (39%) stated supply chain issues, over a third (36%) said rising business costs, a quarter (26%) said labour shortages and 23% said overseas conflict. 

Other focuses for businesses include international team rapport, with respondents saying they increasingly find themselves with remote and international teams due to their growth. As a result, 78% said it is important to produce e-learning modules in employees’ home language to achieve staff morale and engagement, and 84% said they believe employee wellbeing is increased when staff have access to content in their own language. However, 66% said this is a challenge for their business. 

White continued: “Despite all the challenges that businesses have faced, they continue to adapt and are making clear plans for growth in the coming years, utilising different services – like translation – to achieve their targets. 

“Our role now is to continue providing insight and guidance on how different approaches to translation can support operations so businesses can navigate these uncertain times and achieve their overseas objectives. Doing so will help ensure the UK remains at the epicentre of international trade for the long term.”

The Translation People conducted research with 500 individuals in senior positions within business, who have a direct involvement in international trade, including business owners, export managers, sales directors, finance directors, marketing directors, logistics managers, operations managers and HR managers.

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