The Amazon Academy took place last month in Edinburgh with the aim of helping small business owners navigate the world of ecommerce and exports with tools such as Amazon Marketplace. If you couldn’t make the event itself, here is a round-up of some of the key points.
Amazon offers a range of services designed to help small and medium-sized businesses make the most of new technology and the internet to compete with larger businesses.
Amazon Marketplace offers a service that enables businesses to sell to a global audience, and with strong political headwinds affecting the UK’s SMEs at the moment, it offers a great starting point for businesses looking to export in a low-risk way.
Katie McQuaid, Director of Amazon Marketplace, UK said: “It’s difficult to tell what impact Brexit will have on small businesses. However, with any economic uncertainty, it is always important to minimise risk and maximise opportunities wherever possible.
The best way to do this is by adopting digital services that boost productivity and exports. This reduces costs, broadens your customer base, and gives the flexibility to scale up or down depending on customer demand.”
This view was backed by Amazon’s UK SME Growth Tracker, which reports that SMEs who use ecommerce tend to show greater confidence in their own business prospects and forecast higher revenue and jobs growth over the next 12 months.
The hurdles to exporting
The hurdles to exporting are much as you’d expect – lots of paperwork, cultural differences and language barriers. If you decide to export, you have to do a lot of research, perhaps visit the country that you are targeting, set up a factory or a warehouse there or else dedicate resources to shipping.
There’s nothing to say you can’t make a success of it, but certainly it is a lot of working that is replicated every time you target a new country. The Amazon Marketplace is aimed at simplifying the process.
“Making exporting as simple as clicking a button is something we’ve been keen to achieve for small businesses,” said McQuaid.
“For example, Amazon Marketplace sellers who use our Fulfilment by Amazon service can have their products stored in-country around Europe, and delivered next day to Amazon Prime customers through just one single seller account.”
Speaking at the Amazon Academy, Michael Corrigan, MD at Trtl, explained how he uses Amazon Marketplace to export his products to the US: “I filled a box with 70 units, walked with the box on my shoulder to the nearest mail box and posted them to Amazon. That was how we launched in America.”
British brands selling on Amazon Marketplace can automatically have products sold in another country, in the local language and local currency, without having to deal with any additional paperwork.
What about your own website?
Amazon Marketplace takes a lot of the burden of ecommerce and exporting off an entrepreneur’s shoulders and allows them to focus on the things they enjoy more – such as growing their businesses, taking them in new directions and innovating.
“A favourite example of mine is Gayle Hunter, founder of lifestyle products company Lifestyle Hunter. She left her career in business and started selling her products on Amazon mainly so she can spend more time with her young family,” said McQuaid.
“She now spends much of the school holidays overseas with the family, and runs her business on Amazon remotely from anywhere in the world.”
With all of this at your fingertips, you don’t need your own ecommerce optimised website – but of course it doesn’t hurt. Many Amazon Marketplace sellers also have their own websites.
Some sellers use Amazon Pay on their own websites, which allows them to connect with Amazon’s loyal customer base, while also eliminating the need for customers to create separate usernames and passwords. This makes checkout quicker and simpler, and also lends the business a certain amount of credibility. More than 33 million customers globally have used Amazon Pay to make a purchase.
McQuaid is confident that despite the uncertainty facing the UK, there are still plenty of opportunities out there for small and medium-sized businesses.
“For centuries we have been renowned for thinking beyond our borders and looking for new opportunities around the world. That’s why UK products have always been seen as high quality and high-end in other countries,” she said.
“That’s also why a number of entrepreneurs come to the UK to set up their business. Thanks to the internet and technology, I believe we can now be local and sell global, and rekindle that exporting culture in Britain.”