Doing business with international markets is vital to thousands of SMEs across Europe. A recent EE survey asked business owners about how internation trade will impact their operations in the coming years, with many saying it will play a pivotal role.
We spoke to Lydia Hicks, director of SME product marketing at BT, to find out more how mobile technology can help businesses with expansion abroad.
1. How important are international markets to businesses for future growth?
International markets are extremely important for the growth of Britain’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs), as our recent research has shown. We asked 1000 senior decision makers in British SMEs about their attitudes to international trade, and found that they’re expecting international trade to drive 25 percent of their businesses’ growth over the next five years. But it’s not just a consideration for the future, a significant proportion of British SMEs already trade internationally (40 per cent), and a further six per cent plan to do so within the next five years.
2. Which countries are UK companies looking to for business opportunities?
Our research showed that the primary target growth markets for Britain’s SMEs are the US and Western Europe. 55 percent of SMEs currently operating internationally say their businesses are currently or planning to trade with the US market, while 82 percent said they are currently or planning to trade with Western Europe. After those, the Nordics is the third most popular growth market, with 44 per cent of SMEs currently or have plans to operate internationally saying they’re targeting the region.
3. How important is affordable mobile technology for these companies looking to expand their operations?
According to British SMEs, it’s crucial. Three quarters of SMEs that currently operate overseas said that using mobile devices while abroad for calls, text, email, web and file sharing in the same way they do at home was extremely important when travelling. Additionally, 70 per cent said mobile technology helps them better interact with overseas customers, partners and prospects.
4. How is EE helping in this respect?
UK SMEs show no signs of holding back on their international business ambitions, so we’ve built our EE Business Extra+ plans to help them stay connected with international customers and partners, whether at home or abroad. It’s the UK’s first plan for businesses to include unlimited calls and texts across the USA, EU and UK, plus generous 4G data allowances – 500MB of daily data, equivalent to 15GB a month – enable UK SMEs to focus on growing their businesses, rather than worrying about their bill. Additionally, our superfast 4G in over 50 countries enables businesspeople to work as they would from home.
5. Given the vastly increased movement of people and businesses around the world, is the introduction of Europe-wide roaming at no extra cost overdue?
What this really shows is how essential mobile technology is for British businesses that have international ambitions. That three quarters of the SMEs we surveyed said using mobile devices abroad as they do at home is important for how they operate, demonstrates the value it provides. Our research has shown that working abroad is crucial for Britain’s SMEs, and core to their growth plans. When they travel, businesses need to be able to take the office with them, so to speak, and mobile technology has a vital role to play in helping businesses do that.
6. Would a Brexit scenario threaten advances made in European data roaming for UK businesses?
It is because of the UK's membership of the EU, that BT and EE have been able to offer our customers lower charges, including inclusive roaming plans and data charges that are over 90 percent lower for Britons travelling on the continent.