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3 Ways SMEs Can Tap International
E-Commerce For Growth

By Audrey Cheong | July 21, 2021

Online marketplaces like eBay are helping SMEs scale up and grow international customers fast.

E-commerce is here to stay. Shopping from home has officially become the new normal thanks to 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 taking the opportunity to take their businesses global on platforms like eBay. But what does it take to be a successful SME retailer in an increasingly competitive space?

Take Southeast Asia. The small business 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).
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There is no better time for businesses to maximize their international e-commerce offerings. 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.

We’ve teamed up with eBay to offer some tips and tricks to help SMEs thrive in the global e-commerce market.

Lower costs to attract customers

With tens of thousands of sellers on platforms like eBay, there is a need to differentiate. Competitive pricing can drive up sales, but it doesn’t necessarily mean absorbing costs.

The eBay Business Seller Program renders sellers eligible for preferential shipping rates that are discounted from partners for international shipping. Sellers are also entitled to exclusive incentives like deals, campaigns, and listing assistance – all critical factors in saving costs.

Consumers usually expect free shipping when shopping online, even for low-value purchases. 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.

Solutions such as FedEx International Economy help manage seller shipping costs by providing flexible shipping options. That way, businesses can provide free shipping while saving money on import and export shipping.

Rethinking the online shopping experience

Online stores need to think about delivering more personalized, curated shopping experiences – differentiated as an experience and a destination .

Customers that enjoy your online shopping experience will be far more likely to complete the purchase and return for more. Online stores need to think about delivering more personalized, curated shopping experiences – differentiated as an experience and a destination . In Singapore, livestreaming is the top e-commerce trend for local market players. Brands stream content and engage social media influencers to promote products. Viewers are then able to purchase in real time on the application or platform.
Online stores need to think about delivering more personalized, curated shopping experiences – differentiated as an experience and a destination .

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eBay is also working to redefine the shopping experience 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 that helps people find the best deals via Facebook Messenger. 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.

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 help them to optimize their listings.

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. FedEx provides fast and reliable deliveries to 220 territories, making it one of the largest express transportation companies in the world for SMEs to work with.
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Solutions we’ve developed like FedEx Global Trade Manager help SMEs navigate international e-commerce. Through this online one-stop solution, businesses can track important information such as required documents for shipping, estimated duties and taxes, and shipping advisories. FedEx Electronic Trade Documents helps reduce customs delays and increase shipping reliability. With these services, your customers can manage their own deliveries by having orders delivered to another address, changing the date of delivery or making specific delivery drop-off arrangements.

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 for the long-term.

For more content that helps SMEs grow their international presence, head here.

To ensure you’re up to date with the very latest small business trends, you can also follow us on LinkedIn Go Global.
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About the Author
the author bio

Audrey Cheong

Vice President, Operations
Southeast Asia, FedEx Express

Audrey joined FedEx in 1998 and was based in Shanghai before settling in Singapore. Audrey has studied in Australia and California and is Chairperson of FedEx Women’s Network (FWN), a network focused on reinforcing a positive working environment for women in Singapore.

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