Scots ‘not grasping online or export opportunities’

A YouGov survey published on Monday by Amazon claims that Scottish small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) are “struggling to grasp digital and export opportunities” to help grow their revenues.

Over half of Scottish SMEs (59%) say they do not use e-commerce to sell their products and services, of which 90% say they have no plans to use e-commerce in the coming year,” said Amazon.

“However, of those that do use e-commerce, 40% said they plan to increase the use of it to grow sales in the next 12 months and 30% say online selling will be important to their future growth.

“Scottish SMEs in the retail sector and start-ups in their first year of trading show the strongest digital adoption, with 74% of small retailers and 44% of start-ups saying they use e-commerce to sell products and services.”

The survey also claims that only 23% of SMEs in Scotland are currently exporting, with 76% saying they do not currently export at all.

By contrast, SMEs that do export focus primarily on the EU and overall forecast a net increase of 4% in export volumes in the coming year.

SMEs in manufacturing (56%), marketing and advertising (48%) and retail (33%) show the greatest take-up of export opportunities, whilst 94% of SMEs who export say they use e-commerce to sell goods and services abroad.

“The findings show there’s still a fair degree of hesitation from SMEs in Scotland about selling globally and adopting great use of digital, despite the huge opportunities they bring,” said Doug Gurr, UK Country Manager, Amazon.

“Last year we saw tens of thousands of UK businesses achieve £2.3 billion in exports by selling around the world on Amazon.

“At the same time, a recent report we commissioned showed that UK rural businesses alone could add £15 billion in annual turnover through greater digital adoption.

“That’s why we’re in Glasgow tomorrow — to show SMEs small and large, urban and rural — how selling online can help boost revenue, exports and productivity.”

The survey was published ahead of the Amazon Academy at the SECC in Glasgow on Tuesday, an event designed to help equip Scottish SMEs with the skills they need to compete in a constantly growing digital economy.

Several hundred small businesses and entrepreneurs have already registered to attend.

The Amazon Academy in Glasgow will include sessions from industry experts including Scottish Enterprise, Enterprise Nation and the Department for International Trade (DIT), alongside independent experts and successful Scottish entrepreneurs.

These include Michael Corrigan of Trtl, who sells travel pillows around the world, Chris Forbes of Cheeky Panda, who makes sustainable tissue products from bamboo, and Karen Riddick of Second Nature, a fair-trade home furnishings company, who will share their personal stories of digital trade success.

“Over half of our sales occur on Amazon Marketplace and this is growing,” said Michael Corrigan, founder of Trtl.

“The UK remains our largest market, followed by Germany, but the rise in ecommerce has allowed us to expand as a Scottish business at a faster rate was previously possible.”