According to a Kantar survey commissioned by Amazon and BeCommerce, more than half (55%) of Belgian SMEs are still hesitant to launch their business online, even though 53% are actively looking for new growth drivers.
With Amazon.com.be turning one year old, we’ve announced the launch of the E-Academy, a free training programme designed to allow entrepreneurs to access the knowledge they need to launch their business online. Available from the 23rd October, the programme will include around 20 modules, addressing all aspects of e-commerce in the form of short videos, led by experts. Among the training courses available: preparing for your digital transition, opening your own website-commerce site, and launching on a marketplace.
“The E-Academy programme allows all entrepreneurs to access the tools they need to launch their business online, whether via their own website or on an existing marketplace such as Amazon,” said Guillaume Codsi, Marketplace Manager, Amazon.com.be.
At the end of 2022, Belgium counted more than 1.2 million SMEs, about 30,000 more than in 2020 and 21% more than ten years earlier. This is proof that Belgium is full of talent and entrepreneurs who are eager to express themselves and promote their creativity throughout the world, but many of them are still hesitant to take the digital plunge. According to a study carried out by Kantar on behalf of Amazon and BeCommerce on the first anniversary of the launch of Amazon.com.be, 45% of SMEs in Belgium are now selling their products online, compared to only 11% in 2013. While encouraging, this figure shows that 55% of Belgian SMEs are still hesitant even though more than half (53%) are actively looking for new growth drivers.
About a third (31%) of Belgian entrepreneurs surveyed by Kantar believe that they do not have the necessary skills to launch their online business, and a quarter (26%) would like to be trained to fill this knowledge gap.
“Too many Belgian companies are giving up, thinking launching their business online would be too complex. Just a year ago, Amazon.com.be opened its doors to Belgian sellers wishing to help them extend their creativity and know-how to the whole country, to Europe and the world. We are convinced that we have a role to play in supporting the digitalisation and growth of Belgian SMEs. We have been putting all our energy, our know-how and our capacity for innovation at the service of the growth of the economies in which we operate for over 20 years, Belgium is no exception,” said Eva Faict, Country Manager for Amazon.com.be.
With the continuing growth of digital businesses, additional business growth levers are to be found in e-commerce, as Christophe de Smet, founder of Garzini, said: "Until 2020, we were devoting 70% of our efforts to developing the traditional retail distribution network and 30% to e-commerce. We have since reversed our strategy and concentrated on e-commerce, capitalising on Amazon."
Businesses that are going digital are seeing numerous positive outcomes. No less than 79% of companies said that using digital sales channels allowed them to reach more customers, and 66% said that it resulted in increasing their turnover, with more than half of them increasing turnover significantly by around 20%. Slightly above half of SMEs surveyed (52%) have extended their geographical sales area beyond Belgium and 14% have created new jobs through their online activity, thus actively participating in the country's economic development.
"We are seeing very clear progress in the digitalisation of Belgian SMEs, but there is still some way to go. At the same time companies that did go online are reporting significant benefits, particularly in terms of expanding their customer base, increasing sales and creating jobs, while at the same time expressing a need for support and training to optimise their digital transition,” said Martine Philippe, Research Director at Kantar Insights Belgium.
“E-commerce offers unique growth opportunities to Belgian businesses and the Amazon E-Academy can help entrepreneurs overcome the barriers they face to support their business expansion in Belgium and beyond," said Greet Dekocker, Managing Director for BeCommerce.
According to the first Amazon SME Impact report conducted in the country, this trend is confirmed by the 1,200 Belgian SMEs selling on Amazon, which sold over five million products in 2022, i.e. ten products per minute. Two hundred of them exceeded a turnover of €100,000, while 30 reached €1 million. Those who have chosen to go international have achieved more than €200 million in export sales, including €140 million within the European Union and €50 million beyond the borders of the EU.
"We were already exporting a little with our network of specialist shops, but with Amazon, the business has clearly taken on a new dimension, we are no longer confined to consumers who visit concept stores, our audience is much wider and more varied,” said Dimitri Oosterlynck, founder of Gimber, who believes that the business’s success is partly due to Amazon's logistics service. He said: "I'm fascinated by Amazon's logistics: as well as being very competitively priced, it's incredibly efficient. It eliminates the friction between the consumer and their needs.”
Amazon offers a wide range of services designed to support entrepreneurs at every stage of their online adventure. Available via the Seller Central website, most solutions are self-service and available 24/7, allowing any entrepreneur to experiment and fine-tune their approach to e-commerce at their own pace, at any time of day. These easy-to-use solutions include gaining visibility through promotional offers, taking advantage of Amazon’s fast delivery services, and reaching new customers by selling internationally.
 Source: "The 2022 SME report - Overview of the economic health of Belgian SMEs" - Graydoncredit safe, Unizo, UCM