British brands Burberry and Topshop are already blazing the overseas online trail. But an expanding pool of international buyers will make 28bn for British retailers by 2020, says a new report.

Overseas online sales to soar sevenfold by 2020 (G)

The online sale of British goods to international buyers made up 14 per cent of the market in 2012 - around £4bn - with companies such as Asos, Burberry and Net-A-Porter leading the way.

But a new report by OC&C consultants and Google said this could grow to 40 per cent of the market, to £28bn, by 2020 - and at a faster rate than online British sales.

The increase in international buyers of British goods will come from across the globe, but the rate of online sales is expected to rise the fastest in Europe and Asia.

A handful of companies already receive half of their traffic from overseas, including designer brands such as Burberry and Jimmy Choo. But the report revealed that smaller retailers, such as Isabella Oliver and Corsets UK, are expanding into international markets more quickly than their larger counterparts.

Clicks for British goods

Google Director Peter Fitzgerald said there has already been a significant increase in the number of overseas searches for British retailers and brands, particularly in Europe, followed by north America and Asia.

Sales in western Europe are expected to rise to £9.8bn in 2020 while the emerging economies of central and eastern Europe and Asia are also expected to reach £6.9bn by 2020.

But north America is expected to maintain the biggest regional market for online British goods, rising to £2.7bn in 2020.

The OC&C and Google study, Britain's Retail e-mpire, found that the number of consumers searching online for British brands and retailers from outside of the UK has been growing by 46 per cent a year on average since 2010.

Wiggle room

One British company which is already making the most of its international buyers is Wiggle, the online cycling and tri-sport retailer, which shipped more than two million orders in 2012.

It employs customer service staff who can speak a number of languages and free international delivery for example.

But it also customised payment methods to specific countries' preferred systems.

"For example, in Holland people like to use Ideal, whereas in Germany, invoice with product is preferred," said Humphrey Cobbold, CEO of Wiggle. "From Wiggle's experience, what has become clear is that there is no silver bullet to international expansion."

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