A third of Aussie SMEs plan to go global


One-third of Australian small and medium business owners plan to expand internationally in the next two years, according to a recent Global Empowerment study commissioned by Amazon Australia.

Many Australian SMEs have their sights set on North American market with more than one in five already operating in, or hoping to expand into, the region. Meanwhile, more than one in three businesses are already operating in or planning to expand a bit closer to home in New Zealand.

According to the study, such global aspirations have come about mainly due to the desire of these business owners to increase revenue (49 per cent), expand their customer base (43 per cent), and future-proof their business (28 per cent) as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. In particular, more than three in four SMEs with existing international footprints cited the impact of COVID-19 as a factor for them to consider furthering their global push, with almost 80 per cent now planning to expand to additional countries within the next 12 months.

The research also noted that almost a third of Australian SMEs with existing international footprints said that operating in other countries enabled them to navigate the challenges of COVID-19. In detail, two-thirds of existing exporters recognised an increase in global sales over the past 18 months, and 77 per cent cite the impact of COVID as a factor encouraging them to consider further international expansion.

For those SMEs who have already expanded internationally, 96 per cent have no regrets, and over 80 per cent wished they’d embarked on their global journey sooner. Over a quarter of SMEs reported that they were able to reduce risks during low sales periods by leveraging peak seasons in other regions, and more than 60 per cent increasing their customer base with their global expansion.

“With so much to think of when reaching overseas customers – from navigating local compliance requirements, product fulfilment, whilst building an understanding and marketing to a completely new audience – the small business seller faces many potential challenges,” Amit Mahto, Head of Amazon Marketplace Australia, said of the research findings,.

The study found that a quarter of SMEs admitted to feeling overwhelmed about overseas expansion, with one in five SMEs feeling unsure of where to begin. More than one in four SMEs feel that they don’t have the right tools, support or knowledge to expand globally on their own, particularly in the aspects of cost effective solutions to handle shipping and fulfilment (28 per cent), navigating local legal and compliance requirements (32 per cent), nternational marketing support (30 per cent), local taxation advice (34 per cent), and mentorship (23 per cent)

Despite the challenges, separate data from Amazon noted the growing success of Australian businesses in the global e-commerce as more than 11,000 Australian businesses, mostly SMEs, sell through Amazon and sold more than 25 million units across its Australian and international stores in the past year. Currently, 60 per cent of Australian sellers export their products through Amazon to international customers, with export sales by Australian sellers increasing by 30 per cent on the prior year.