Navigating 2017: Opportunities in eCommerce

The world we live in today and how business is done globally has been heavily impacted by e-commerce. Consumers now have more choice, shop online can purchase products from a range of markets. While this might seem like increased competition for retailers, it also means the customer pool is larger than ever, with overseas shoppers looking for new and different offerings across borders.

According to the Westpac-Melbourne Institute SME Index, SMEs are feeling optimistic entering 2017, having ended 2016 on a high note. The business confidence index improved from 95.6 in Q3 2016 to 100.7 in Q4 2016* (where a score of greater than 100 indicates confidence of business growth) and business growth in 2017 is within sight with the right approach for all business owners.

Digitally savvy

One aspect of SME optimism lies in the fact that small businesses today are more technology-savvy, well-connected, agile and able to hold their own on the world stage. Whether it’s eCommerce, mCommerce, social commerce, the cloud, SEO, content management systems (CMS), e-payment technology or sophisticated logistics solutions, SMEs can quickly connect with more markets than ever before.

More than half of Australian SMEs (54 per cent) use e-commerce and 48 per cent of businesses use social media as part of their business strategy.**

These digital technologies are essential to attracting and retaining customers.

So too is the necessity to have an efficient supply chain – to enhance customer experience, win new customers and improve bottom lines. Maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction in a difficult business environment is tough, especially since over a third of SMEs cite increasing competition with foreign rivals as a major challenge.

That’s why investment in new technologies and an efficient supply chain is essential for small businesses in navigating and exploiting the ever-changing digital economy, and tapping into all the opportunities ahead in regional trade.

To start 2017 on a strong note, Australian SMEs should keep in mind the following:

  1. Asia bound: Expand your business into Asian markets, particularly those with an FTA.
  2. Invest in digital commerce: Allow customers to choose from a range of options to suit their needs, including mobile and social transactions and multiple delivery choices.
  3. Build a network: Use local or international vendors to support your business; leverage their services, expertise and understanding on policies and regulations.
  4. Be present throughout the transaction: Ensure an end-to-end experience – from ordering to returns – to inspire loyalty and drive repeat business.
  5. Build a customer base by taking advantage of the opportunities the digital economy presents to enter markets where there are gaps in demand and supply.
  6. A well-oiled machine: Have a strong supply chain with the systems and processes in place to ensure all aspects of the business operate smoothly – from ordering and fulfilment, to distribution, delivery and returns.

“SMEs feeling optimistic going into 2017”, Westpac-Melbourne Institute SME Index, December 2016

** “Sensis e-Business Report 2016: The online experience of Small and Medium Enterprises”, Sensis, June 2016

Kim Garner, Managing Director, FedEx Express Australasia

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