Scotland’s digital technologies can boost export earnings

Written by Polly Purvis on 18 June 2015 in Comment

Polly Purvis, chief executive of ScotlandIS, on the need to start measuring annual results on a 'systematic basis' 

Every business across Scotland is being urged to consider exporting, so it’s good to know that not only is the digital technologies industry increasing its own exports but it’s also helping other businesses to move into export markets. 

The increasing ease of use of e-commerce systems enables businesses to take their websites from brochure ware to online store and whether you’re selling B2B or B2C online sales account for an increasing percentage of international trade.  

Traditionally, entering export markets required significant investment in overseas agents, market specific sales materials and the development of an expensive fulfillment system. Nowadays businesses are using their online presence to test overseas markets, and partnering with locally based expert suppliers and fulfillment specialists to de-risk exporting.


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From digital marketing to delivery, there’s a range of Scottish businesses with the knowledge and practical experience to support companies with export ambition. The web development companies and digital agencies specialising in e-commerce have built relationships across the exporting supply chain to give clients access to a world of expert support.

It would be all too easy for the digital technologies industry to help client businesses export without itself ‘walking the walk’. So it’s hugely encouraging to see the year-on-year increase in export income the industry is generating.

Latest figures suggest that 57 per cent of businesses in the tech sector from telecommunications to software development, IT services to web developers and digital agencies, are already exporting. This is up from 39 per cent in 2011, demonstrating an increasing appetite to sell overseas.

Europe and the US remain the largest export markets, but the Middle East, Asia and South America are also important. These are great figures but at a Scotland level we need better evidence of the value of these sales, and that’s quite difficult to measure.

Increasingly firms in the digital technologies industry are ‘born global’, selling internationally from the moment the business is formed. Companies like Skyscanner, KAL, Axios, Simul8, Smarter Grid Solutions, RockstarNorth and Calnex to name but a few have always seen their markets as global and are building increasing export revenues. 

Our research suggests that it's the first export market that’s the hardest, thereafter each additional geography you tackle becomes that much easier. However, it’s important we all keep a clear focus on exports. Starting to measure annual results on a systematic basis would be a great next step. 

Polly Purvis is chief executive of ScotlandIS, the trade body for the digital technologies industry in Scotland

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