Three ways SMEs can tap into the international e-commerce market

Audrey Cheong, Regional Vice President for Southeast Asia Operations, FedEx

E-commerce is here to stay, as shopping from home becomes the new normal in the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Global Ecommerce Update 2021 by eMarketer, Retail e-commerce sales grew by 27.6% in 2020 globally, with sellers going global with their brands on platforms like eBay. But what does it take to be a successful SME retailer in an increasingly competitive space?

Take Southeast Asia for instance. The SME community is poised to power growth and drive economic recovery. More than 9,000 Malaysian and Singaporean businesses are listed on eBay, and 77% of them sell to customers outside of their geographical boundaries. The top Malaysian sellers generate approximately $34 million in annual Gross Merchandise Value (GMV).

There is no better time for businesses to maximize on e-commerce and internationalize. In Singapore alone, the COVID-19 crisis has caused a shift in consumer behaviour – spurring the digital economy to earn an additional US$500 million annually, while some businesses saw up to three times their normal growth.

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Here are some tips and tricks prepared in collaboration with eBay for SMEs to develop their offerings and capabilities to thrive in the global e-commerce market.

Lowering costs to attract customers

With tens of thousands of sellers establishing an online presence on platforms like eBay, there is a need for differentiation. Adopting competitive pricing can drive-up volume in sales, but that does not necessarily mean absorbing costs.

Partaking in the eBay Business Seller Program renders sellers eligible for preferential shipping rates that are discounted from partners for international shipping. Sellers are also eligible to get exclusive incentives like deals, campaigns, and listing assistance – all of which are critical factors in cost savings.

Consumers expect free shipping when shopping online, even for purchases as low as $50. In a survey by Dotcom Distribution, 91% said that free shipping influences future purchases. On marketplaces like eBay, products that come with free shipping guarantees may get more exposure by search algorithms and selective search functions by potential customers who intentionally avoid listings that charge for shipping. SMEs can circumvent this by including the shipping fee into the selling price of their listed products or offer other nominally free shipping options.

Rethinking the online shopping experience

If the customer is enjoying the shopping experience online, they will be extremely likely to complete the purchase and return for more. Online stores therefore need to be reconfigured to deliver more personalized, curated shopping experiences – differentiated as an experience and a destination. In Singapore, livestreaming is the top e-commerce trend within local market players. Brands stream content and engage social media influencers to promote products which viewers are able to purchase in real time on the application.

eBay is redefining the shopping experience for consumers by investing in artificial intelligence at scale, leveraging augmented reality and driving a distributed commerce model that sellers can take advantage of. On social networks, eBay ShopBot is an AI-powered personal shopping concierge on Facebook Messenger that helps people find the best deals. The revamped API platform allows developer and seller partners to grow and scale their businesses, giving them the tools to quickly integrate with eBay and onboard all their inventory using retail and industry standard practices.

Addressing local consumer trends

Small businesses who set up an online presence on eBay can also get exclusive access to insights and educational content on best practices. Consumer trends differ from market to market. By connecting with counterparts in respective geographies, sellers can stay updated with the latest and greatest in individual markets to enable them to optimize their listings. In the same vein, eBaymag, an eBay e-commerce tool, allows sellers can list their items on 9 international eBay sites, which will then be translated into appropriate languages automatically, to reach a wider consumer base.

Team up with trusted logistics providers with global reach

To fully reap the benefits of e-commerce, SMEs will have to offer fast and reliable delivery options to major destinations around the world. Collaborating with logistics service providers with an extensive network will help businesses navigate border regulations and customs procedures that differ from market to market.

As the growth of e-commerce turns heads and creates new opportunities, SMEs that can adapt will be able to reap the benefits and boost their business in a long-term, sustainable manner.