What’s going on with e-commerce for local SMEs?

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Many discussions about e-commerce focus on scalability and cross-border transactions, understanding local customers, dealing with language issues and delivery options, but what about the local SME?

Local SMEs are Far Behind

In the 2018 SIINDA Landscape Study, we looked at nearly 75,000 SMEs in eight (8) countries in the Retail / Shopping sector and found that only 12% had an identifiable e-commerce solution.  This percentage is shockingly low when we know that most consumers research products and conduct price comparison online before ever visiting a physical location. 

Mobile Optimisation

Despite the constant messages about the importance of mobile optimisation, there are still 15% of the SMEs in this study who have e-commerce enabled sites that are not mobile optimised.  That is not a good statistic given the importance of the user experience in e-commerce purchases (and with a website overall). It is not too much of a stretch to theorise that the abandonment rate of shopping carts and even the bounce rate would be higher than their competition.


Trust in an online store is a significant factor for consumers.  Consumers don’t just research products and prices but also the business they will buy from as there are usually many other options. Being able to find reviews, ratings, comments and responses quickly, can be a deciding factor in converting a "researcher" to a customer.  However, 45% of the SMEs with e-commerce in the SIINDA study have not linked their social media to their website. No social media links just make the consumer take more steps to "verify" the trustworthiness of the business, which is not great customer service.


Consumers want to know that their transactions online are secure, and the most basic precaution is using SSL certificates.  We found that 42% of the e-commerce enabled sites do not have an SSL certificate, which most likely will lead to a higher cart abandonment rate.  Cost is not a barrier as SSL certificates can be obtained for as little as 4 euros per year for one domain to a “Wildcard SSL Certificate” for unlimited sub-domains for 45 euros a year.  That’s not much to pay to build trust with customers. 

Consumers want to shop local.

A study in Ireland by IE Domain Registry (IEDR.ie) found that 65% of consumers would buy more from their local shops if those shops had some form of click-and-collect service which allowed them to order a product online and pick it up in the store.

In the Netherlands, the majority of Dutch consumers only shop at Dutch retailers versus cross-border shopping.  According to the Statistics Netherlands, this might be attributed to the rise in the number of Dutch online stores which more than doubled from 2010 to 2016.

It is evident that most people are comfortable purchasing online, but it is disappointing that their choices in local shopping are so limited. SMEs can capture a large share of this market by offering basic level e-commerce solutions, such as click-and-collect, and their online/offline capabilities and local service.    

Both these studies show that there is a real opportunity for local SMEs to utilise e-commerce to maintain and even grow their customer base.

Final Thoughts

We understand that many businesses owners don't have the time or knowledge implement to e-commerce solutions today, but they must start somewhere because in a few years they might be struggling to attract customers, especially younger generations, who frequently shop online.

The research already shows that consumers are willing to shop locally if they are given a choice, so SMEs need to take the plunge.

For Digital Agencies, it is vital to present a full view of how a business should implement an e-commerce solution and not just focus on the website. The good news is that many of the tools available today to businesses can integrate with existing inventory systems and automate many of the processes needed to be successful.

This post is based on key findings from the 2018 SIINDA Landscape study which looked at almost 40,000,000 data points across eight countries and 400,000 SMEs to provide insight into the quality of their online presence. The data was processed and analysed by Silktide, a web intelligence company headquartered in the UK. Silktide makes software to help people understand and improve their online presence. (www.silktide.com) and SIINDA.com: The Digital Marketing & Local Search Association (www.siinda.com)



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