Ahead of the summer Export Action Plan Competition final, we talk to Emil Stickland from the Institute of Ecommerce – one of this year’s judges and a prize donator. We ask him about what he’s expecting from the finalists and the importance of factoring ecommerce into an export strategy.
This is going to be your second appearance as a judge at the Export Action Plan competition showcase final. What was your biggest takeaway from last time?
I really enjoyed meeting so many early stage companies with amazing and innovative ideas. The range of companies that were represented was vast, from tech to health foods, proving that the UK really does have an enormous amount to offer the rest of the world.
What will you be looking for as a judge this time?
As my field is ecommerce, I am particularly interested in seeing how SMEs are taking advantage of online trade. Last year we had some great examples of how companies were making the most of being small and agile to try things that larger companies are unable to do. While there is best practice in ecommerce, it moves so quickly that more traditional and cumbersome companies struggle to make the best of the opportunities.
I will be paying particular attention to what the companies in the Open to Export competition are doing online, and how they plan to expand on this. After all, ecommerce greatly reduces barriers to export compared with more traditional methods of overseas trade.
You recently set up the Institute of Ecommerce. What does the Institute do?
The Institute of Ecommerce has been setup with the purpose of helping increase wealth, jobs and exports through online trade.
The main activities of the Institute of Ecommerce are to:
- Gather statistics with the aim of understanding current position, trends and identifying opportunities.
- Providing video and written case studies designed to help educate and inspire businesses to trade successfully using the Internet.
- Provide training, guidance and advice to companies and individuals to help plan, implement and optimise their businesses.
- Provide certified courses to help create a new generation of professional ecommerce practitioners.
- Foster a community of best practice and support through membership.
In addition to this, the Institute of Ecommerce will have an impact at a Government level, by encouraging policies around ecommerce.
And how will the prize you are donating help the winner with their export plans?
We will be providing a complimentary place on the next Ecommerce Foundations course, which will provide the basic skills needed to be able to navigate the complex landscape of ecommerce. In addition to this, we will work with them to develop an ecommerce feasibility study, which will highlight areas of strengths and weaknesses in their ecommerce plan.
What do you think are the biggest challenges for SMEs in trade at the moment?
It is wonderful that there are so many free resources available to companies wanting to use the internet to engage in international trade, however, there is so much of it that it is often overwhelming for small companies. Much of what is out there is contradictory, wrong or developed by organisations with a vested interest in selling a particular product or service. It is compounded by the fact that these organisations present a “one size fits all” option. Obviously what works for Amazon is not going to work for any SME product brand.
Navigating this information can cause companies to needlessly consume resources on the wrong strategies. That is part of the reason for the Institute of Ecommerce. We want to provide supplier-agnostic, independent advice to SMEs who want to engage in ecommerce, to help them do the right things to grow their business online.
What tips would you give to companies who are new to exporting?
Keep at it! There are no “easy fixes” or “get rich quick schemes”. People who are successful are dogged, determined, and put the time and effort in.
That being said, there are loads of organisations that can be of help, and prevent SMEs from going down the wrong track. The Institute of Export, for example, has a wealth of knowledge and experience. They are the experts in export.
Of course, if you are interested in online channels, the Institute of Ecommerce is always happy to help.
If you’re interested in applying to one of our future competitions, we’re delighted to inform you that we recently launched the International Business Awards – our first ever international Export Action Plan competition.
Enter your plan for international growth before August 10th and it could be you pitching your business at the WTO Public Forum in Geneva in October for the chance to win $5000.