Rising to the Challenge of Online Exporting

Challenge Trophies provides awards, medals and trophies for the sporting, academic and corporate worlds. The business was established in 1976 by the parents of the current Managing Director, Neil Seymour, selling only through retail outlets. Business expansion resulted in the opening of additional stores and warehousing; but rising retail costs and a change in buyer habits led to a rethink in strategy and, in 2009, Challenge Trophies began selling online. “If I’m honest”, explained Neil, “we were rather half-hearted at the start and didn’t really know much about e-commerce, but we quickly saw there was a big market and wanted to make the most of this opportunity!”

Through his bank, Neil was invited to a seminar on exporting by UKTI, the government body supporting export business. “I was somewhat sceptical about exporting but this talk exploded many of the myths for me and, seeing the support available to help us grow our export sales, I had a change of heart!” At the event, Neil was introduced to Mel Langdon, an International Trade Advisor (ITA) working with UKTI. Mel was able to offer advice and introduce Neil to many services to help Challenge Trophies grow their export business.


One of the UKTI services Mel recommended was the Export Communications Review (ECR). The ECR provides practical, impartial and straightforward advice and can help companies improve their online visibility in overseas markets, including devising an international website strategy. Each review is conducted by a communications expert and is tailored to the company’s individual requirements.


Challenge Trophies planned route to export markets was via online sales, so Neil’s brief for the ECR was a comprehensive appraisal of their e-commerce approach checking their websites were suitable for international customers and whether their international web strategy would deliver their goals. Neil gave further details, “I’m not an IT technical person so I wanted to ensure we were going in the right direction as mistakes we made now could cost us dearly in the future”.


Sarah Carroll, a registered Export Communications Consultant, met with Neil and undertook a thorough review of the Challenge Trophies website in the context of their export plans. “Sarah also reviewed other similar sites,” explained Neil, “not just what they looked like to a potential customer but also the coding and set-up. This really helped us to learn what had worked for others and the mistakes to avoid!”


The review was followed with a comprehensive report detailing clear and straightforward recommendations including:


  • Tailor payment terms and platforms for each target market: “In the early days we’d assumed all customers in Europe would have the same attitude to credit cards as in the UK – they don’t!” said Neil. Sarah’s report suggested options for each target market.
  • Develop a specific sub-domain for each country: Ensuring appropriate language, content and style. “There are so many little details that make a big difference! ” Neil shared one of his key recommendations for others thinking of selling online, resulting from the review with Sarah. “Find yourself a good local translator and enlist them to do country-specific promotional initiatives on your behalf. For example, our Swedish translator gives us really useful information about which sports are played when, enabling us to tailor our messages accordingly”
  • Ensure appropriate coding in each site for Search Engine Optimisation: Sarah suggested practical ways to help Challenge Trophies to climb-up the search engines in the target markets. “Within 3 months of launching our Swedish site, we were getting 3,000 relevant visitors per month!”


Since the review Challenge Trophies has launched five European sites on local domains.UK online sales are up 75% year on year and online export sales are up 150%. Neil predicts online export will account for 30% of sales within the year.


“The great thing about the ECR”, said Neil, “is that it gives you the clarity and confidence to take this next big step. My advice to anyone thinking about exporting would be ‘go do it!’ You’re not alone, there’s so much support out there for you: UKTI is the best kept secret!




If you are thinking about reviewing your communications for an international audience then maybe an ECR could help you too?


The Export Communications Review

The Export Communications Review (ECR) is delivered nationwide by a network of specially-trained accredited Export Communications Consultants. Together with the client, the consultant puts together a programme of reviews to suit the needs and complexity of the exporter and their goals. Each review costs £500 + VAT, however, established companies with fewer than 250 employees may be eligible for a UKTI subsidy of £250 towards the cost of each of their first three reviews.  


For more information, please visit www.ukti.gov.uk/ecr or contact the ECR team at the address below.

UK Trade & Investment is the United Kingdom Government’s lead organisation for supporting UK companies in overseas business, and attracting inward investment.

For more information please contact your ECR team on 0845 0342111 or info@ukecr.co.uk.

Please follow this link to see how other Companies have benefitted from the ECR


Sectors: Giftware, Jewellery & Tableware, Metals, and Wholesale & Retail
Topics: E-commerce
Export Action Plan