The rules we’ll be working under once Brexit becomes final, on January 1 2021, are still undecided, but there are still steps which every business can take to protect their future.
There will be tough obstacles to navigate, but the new world we’re facing also presents opportunities for those savvy enough to take them.
Here are your next five steps to not only running a compliant business, but also turning the situation to your advantage and using Brexit as a springboard to achieve greater things.
If you’ve ever traded with countries outside of the EU, you’ll know there’s extra paperwork involved compared to dealing with EU countries. Now we’re out of the club, you’ll need to jump through a few extra hoops just to buy from, and sell to, our neighbouring countries. Some of this applies even if you’re only providing services and no physical goods change hands.
First you’ll need a EORI number. To move goods in or out of the UK, you’ll need a UK EORI number. To move goods in or out of the EU, you’ll need an EU EORI number. You can apply for these online, but the government predicts it could take a week to fulfil your request. Find out more at: gov.uk/eori
Customs will also want to know the HS Classification Number of anything you send over a border, as it helps them immediately identify what you’re shipping. The World Customs Organization has a full list here.
Armed with these details, the next steps you need to take will depend on your type of business, where your customers are, and how you plan to connect with them. You can find advice specific to your situation at gov.uk/transition.
As shipping goods across borders becomes more complex and time-consuming, it may pay dividends to consider warehousing some of your stock within the EU. Without needing to cross through customs, goods stored within EU boundaries will be able to get to your customers more quickly and at reduced cost. This helps keep you competitive in relation to companies both in the EU and in the UK.
International hubs can also be useful when handling returns. Asking a customer to send goods back through customs can be complicated for them, and ramp up the cost and time it takes you to handle enquiries. Again, to offer a competitive customer service experience, you ideally need the returns process to be as pain-free as possible.
If you’re a smaller-scale business, you may not have the resources to own and operate your own warehouses in multiple countries, but with the rise in ecommerce and cross-border trade, there are an increasing number of businesses who will handle despatches and returns on your behalf, all you need to do is send over your initial stock and let them know when you’ve received an order.
Of course this service comes at a price, varying depending on the level of services you require, but it can still be more cost-effective than establishing your own operation.
Worried about how border crossings may play out in the New Year, companies are beginning to ship goods abroad and this has already resulted in lorries jamming the roads out of the country.
This backlog may take some time to clear, and even once it does, shipping goods into the EU will take longer simply because of the customs process.
With this in mind, it’s a good time to communicate with your customers and talk to them honestly about the situation. Your international shippings are set to be delayed and it’s best to prepare your customers.
You can remind customers to buy early, you can give regular transit updates so that packages aren’t assumed to be lost, and you can even give them an inside look at the preparation you’ve done ahead of the transition.
Customers won’t enjoy the delays, but if they don’t come as a surprise, and they understand that you’re working hard to minimise them, you’ll be viewed in a better light – and good customer relations can take a brand a long way.
We’ve discussed how moving goods abroad is going to become more costly and time-consuming, and the same is true for international travel.
So, if there are operations you can bring back home, such as your marketing, you will be able to make savings in other areas.
Boots on the ground is a much more costly and complex option than it was up until this year. Whether it’s face-to-face meetings, trade shows or other in-person marketing, these options are – at least temporarily – off the table.
But one thing the pandemic has shown us is how much we can accomplish even when remote from others. Video conferencing has proven its worth, so international meetings can now be held at a fraction of the cost in terms of time, resources and finances.
The ease of access to both record and edit videos means that it’s easier than ever to put together a showreel of your products – showcasing them in use, from every angle, in full HD, accessible any time of day!
And through digital marketing, you can remotely reach potential audiences in any country. You can use advanced analytics to drill down the exact type of individual you’re targeting, and waste no budget advertising to anybody else. Through social media, web advertising, Search Engine Optimisation and Pay Per Click, you can run cost-effective campaigns that garner large numbers of views on your website for a fraction of the cost of regular visits to your target markets.
Of course, each country has its own trends, languages and even favoured platforms and software, but a good digital marketing agency will be able to create an effective, multi-platform, multilingual campaign on your behalf.
So far, we have addressed the various complexities which Brexit will bring. The good news – relatively speaking – is that you’re not alone. Other businesses in your field will be facing the same challenges. This, then, is your opportunity to differentiate yourself and stand out from the crowd.
If your goods are held in overseas warehouses, then the quicker delivery times are a selling point for you. Add this to your marketing.
Similarly, if your competitors are based in the EU, they’ll now be at a disadvantage to your UK-based operation. Use your close proximity, and quicker and more affordable delivery, to your advantage. Let your audience know that you’re a British-based firm, with all the advantages which that brings.
Further to this, there may be products related to your core offering that are best found overseas, which presents an opportunity for you to expand your range and become the key UK distributor.
There is no doubt that Brexit brings many challenges, but by making shrewd moves, communicating with your customers, and marketing your strengths, there are ways to not only navigate the bumpy road ahead and even turn the new landscape to your advantage.
If you’re currently selling overseas and you’re not sure what happens next for your business, or you’ve never sold abroad but are interested in learning more about the potential that awaits, talk to eBusiness UK about your options. We have built and marketed websites which have successfully generated sales around the globe and we can help you achieve the same.
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