E-Commerce and Exporting
The internet and digital technologies enable businesses of any size in any location to access global markets. This creates opportunity for businesses to trade not just with local markets but with the world.
Effective use of digital technologies, including ecommerce platforms, tailoring company websites to international markets and using digital marketing and social media, can enable businesses across all sectors to easily reach these markets and increase their export potential.
The following section looks at the extent to which businesses in Scotland engage in ecommerce, and how it is used to enhance their sales outside the UK.
Figure 11: Proportion of sales made via
Base: All businesses (3,258)
|Proportion of sales||Current e-commerce sales (% of businesses)||Expected e-commerce sales in 2-3 years times (% of businesses)|
|All - 100%||1||2|
|Less than 20%||15||18|
Business use of e-commerce (see Figure 11)
- Overall, 30 per cent of businesses surveyed in 2017 made sales via e-commerce.
- 15 per cent of businesses made up to one fifth of their sales via e-commerce, while 1 per cent of businesses made all of their sales via e-commerce.
- When asked how sales via e-commerce had changed compared to 2-3 years ago, 17 per cent of businesses noted that they had increased. 75 per cent of businesses were making a similar proportion of their sales via e-commerce compared to 2-3 years previously, and 2 per cent were making a smaller proportion of their sales via e-commerce.
- Thinking about the future, 40 per cent of businesses expected to make sales via e-commerce over the next 2-3 years.
- The most common reason for not engaging in e-commerce was that it was not relevant to the business (81 per cent).
Figure 12: Steps being taken to maximise digital
presence and support
e-commerce activity (%)
Base: All businesses using e-commerce (1,006)
E-commerce tools and methods (see Figure 12)
- The most common action being taken by businesses using e-commerce to maximise their digital presence and support e-commerce activity was search engine optimisation (58 per cent). 46 per cent of businesses using e-commerce engaged in PR activity, and 35 per cent used digital marketing platforms.
- 21 per cent of businesses using e-commerce had not taken any steps to maximise their digital presence.
- Of those businesses that used e-commerce, the most common way of making sales was through the business' own website (74 per cent). 29 per cent made sales through digital marketplaces or platforms ( e.g. Amazon, eBay), and 4 per cent made use of other specialist or industry-specific websites.
Destination of sales made by Scottish businesses
- Of all businesses surveyed in 2017, 95 per cent sold their goods or services in Scotland, and 44 per cent made sales to the rest of the UK. 24 per cent sold their goods or services to markets outside of the UK, an increase from 18 per cent in 2014.
- Amongst businesses who operate in more than one market, 63 per cent made the majority of their sales in Scotland. 12 per cent stated that the majority of their sales were made to destinations outside of the UK.
- Amongst businesses that did not already operate outside the UK, only 7 per cent were very or fairly likely to start exporting internationally in the next 12 months.
Digital technology and internationalisation
- 26 per cent of exporting businesses who used their own website for e-commerce had tailored their website for different international markets ( e.g. offering different language options or product ranges), a drop from 32% in 2014.
- Of those businesses that used e-commerce, 36 per cent either strongly or slightly agreed with the statement that using e-commerce had increased the number of international markets they were able to export to. 23 per cent strongly disagreed with the statement.
- A variety of challenges were perceived by businesses using e-commerce that would affect their ability to deliver international e-commerce services, including: Logistics/reverse logistics (6 per cent); customs or other regulations (5 per cent); costs, including shipping/postage costs (4 per cent); and having the appropriate technical infrastructure in place (3 per cent).