Helping small businesses get the most out of e-commerce

UPS research shows growth potential for SMBs and how governments can help
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UPS recently commissioned a survey to better understand the e-commerce aspirations and challenges of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in nine countries in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and North America.

The results showed the eagerness of SMBs to use e-commerce to export beyond their home market and how COVID-19 brought about unexpected obstacles. The majority of SMBs are facing common challenges in both mature and growing e-commerce markets:

  • Cash flow constraints,
  • Difficulty attracting new customers,
  • Challenges meeting demands for new products and services, and,
  • Supply chain disruptions.

SMBs in emerging markets, such as India, Indonesia, Mexico and Vietnam, reported concerns with the protection of intellectual property rights, burdensome customs and tax regimes, and lack of infrastructure for e-payments. Elsewhere, SMBs in markets such as Italy and the UK cited the complexities of collecting taxes from customers as a barrier. And in Spain, the need to manage customers’ returns arose as an acute challenge.

UPS supports SMB customers in overcoming many of these challenges and helps them tap into the full potential of international e-commerce. Governments also have various support schemes in place but SMBs are often less familiar with them.

So what more can governments do to enable e-commerce growth? The SMBs surveyed all focused on increasing the ease of and support for doing business, including: 

  • Help with financing to cushion the impact of the pandemic,
  • Reduction in the amount of paperwork needed to access government support,
  • Training and resources on how to increase online sales (for example, setting up e-payments, branding, website development, logistics) and,
  • Help developing a clearer understanding of trade rules and regulations.

“SMBs revealed so much to us, and now we have a lot of work to do to help them – as the engine of our global economy – get back on track,” said Penny Naas, president of international public affairs. “UPS will continue working with governments around the world to drive policy solutions that will help these businesses grow, compete and succeed.”

The full report and findings of the survey can be downloaded here. The survey was conducted from March to May 2021 across nine countries with differing levels of e-commerce maturity: Canada, India, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Spain, the UAE, the UK and Vietnam.

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