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Attracting customers a major challenge for SMEs – survey

26 Sep 17

Attracting customers is one of the most important challenges faced by SMEs, a global survey has found.

75% of the respondents surveyed in the Future of Business Survey said it was their biggest challenge, followed by increasing revenue (57%).

The survey is a collaboration between the OECD, World Bank, and Facebook to establish a new source of information on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

In July, Facebook set out to ask what role digital tools play in enabling international trade by SMEs.

Over 5,000 exporting SMEs globally were asked to consider the online tools that help them sell internationally and to identify the proportion of international sales that depend on those tools.

“The Future of Business Survey provides a window into the global digital and mobile economy, giving Kiwi SMEs who want to go global better business insights to inform decision-making,” says Spencer Bailey, Facebook New Zealand head. 

“The Survey shows that online tools play an important role in helping SMEs around the world trade and create connections around the world in order to grow.”

Some of the key things the survey found include:

  • Exporters rely on online tools to trade internationally
    • Nearly half of exporting SMEs (45%) report that more than 75% of their international sales depend on online tools.
       
  • SMEs attribute growth - in revenue, resources, and employees - to their use of online tools to trade internationally
    • 58% of exporters agree that using online tools for selling internationally has increased their revenue.
    • 28% of exporters say that using online tools for selling internationally has allowed them to increase their employees.
    • 38% of SMEs say that using online tools for selling internationally has allowed them to increase their investments in equipment / durable goods.
    • 42% of SMEs have expanded their businesses (eg opened another store) as a result of using online tools to sell internationally. 

Other survey findings: 

  • SMEs that trade internationally are more confident and more likely to increase jobs
    • Traders are 5 percentage points more confident in their businesses, and 10 percentage points more likely to have added jobs in the last six months than non-traders.
       
  • For exporting SMEs, trade is at the core of their business models and success
    • Among exporting SMEs, 4 in 10 reported that more than 25% of their revenue comes from international trade.
       
  • However, International trade is a challenge to SMEs, and only a minority of SMEs trade internationally
    • Furthermore, almost half of exporters (48%) identified “selling to foreign countries” as a challenge.

Launched in February 2016, the monthly survey provides a timely pulse on the economic environment in which businesses operate and who those businesses are, to help inform decision-making at all levels and to deliver insights that can help businesses grow.

To date, more than 218,000 Facebook business page owners, from both younger and longer-standing companies across a wide range of sectors, have taken the monthly survey.

The 42 countries represent economies accounting for 40% of the world’s population and 73% of global GDP.

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