GUEST COMMENT Ecommerce changes everything for international trade. Governments need to climb aroad

Peter Martin, managing director of digital commerce agency There is a long and storied history of governmental trade commissions helping their domestic companies to sell products overseas. When it comes to dealing with local legalities, putting brands in touch with buyers and distributors and sorting out supply chains, they’re either experts themselves or know exactly who to call.

The issue is that retail has changed – and is changing still – at an unprecedented rate. It’s not just about getting Spanish or Brazilian or Indian brands on the shelves of Tesco and John Lewis any more. Digital commerce is the fastest-moving trading environment in history and many governments are floundering.

They are often better at reacting, and even if they have been proactive, might not be up to the task. It’s important to have marketing specialists at a trade commission, but will they know about the intricacies of advertising on Amazon, or about social commerce on Instagram? (Let alone on TikTok, given the platform wasn’t even around five years ago?).

It’s a particular challenge for foreign governments dealing with companies looking to sell in the UK, where mobile commerce is a given and nearly 90% of shoppers use Amazon, with more than 15m members of Prime. And yet it’s also a G7 country with 67 million highly ecommerce-literate and English-speaking consumers eager for new brands to try.

Who does this impact?

For some overseas retailers, it’s less of an issue. Many fashion or technology products are much the same whether they’re being sold domestically in the EU or exported to Africa (cables and plug types notwithstanding). But in categories like FMCG, particularly food and drink, legal requirements differ hugely from one nation to another.

For example, you can sell alcohol on Amazon in the UK, but not in the US. Similarly, each US […]

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