This article was published before we became the Chartered Institute of Export & International Trade on 10 July 2024, and this is reflected in references to our old brand and name. For more information about us becoming Chartered, visit our dedicated webpage on the change here.

You may be confident that you’re doing all you can to maximise your potential in international markets, but is your website supporting you as well as it should?

There’s no doubt that the internet has drastically changed the way that we communicate with and sell to our prospects. In the ‘old days’ it would be difficult to avoid well placed advertisements; now we are so informed as consumers and internet users that we know what we want and prefer to go there directly.

As sellers, therefore, our job is now to intercept our prospects, make our products and propositions as attractive as possible and ensure that we’re using every tool at our disposal to grow our sales. Even when selling capital goods, statistics show us that the ROPO (Research Online Purchase Offline) rate is higher in less developed countries: this means that a strong web presence is a key tool in your marketing arsenal.

We naturally prefer to communicate in our native language and the cosmopolitan nature of the web has led to an enormous shift away from English being the dominant language – it’s still ahead, but now only accounts for just over a quarter of websites worldwide (no surprise that China is a close second). Take this into account when designing or updating your website.

This may seem like a step outside of your comfort zone but international trade is a complex business and we must challenge ourselves in order to expand our markets. We must better understand our target markets and cater to them. We must develop our knowledge rather than relying on guesswork or ‘having a stab at it’.

The Institute of Export has been working with the Web Fuelled Business programme run by BIS and Yell, encouraging businesses to examine their goals and providing vital guidance on e-commerce, search engine optimisation, online advertising, export finance and the use of social media. The sessions help all sizes of business to increase their online presence, boosting overseas sales.

The IOE also boasts some great members who can help you. Check out our website for an opportunity to take a web audit completely free of charge – why not give it a try?