Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the Eastern Partnership (EaP) region can benefit from solutions offered by the EU4Digital eCommerce accelerator. EaP stakeholders learned about these opportunities in an online event on 14 February 2023. The EU4Digital Facility eTrade stream organised the occasion as part of renewed activities in Facility Phase II and to kick off the eCommerce accelerator, which runs until the end of this year. Interested SMEs are welcome to contact EU4Digital team to find out more.
The aim of EU4Digital Facility eCommerce related activities is to strengthen the integration of EaP eCommerce ecosystem actors with EU networks and to support the ultimate strategic direction of increasing EU and EaP cross-border eCommerce by 50%.
Building on previous work
The online event began with an overview of relevant achievements during EU4Digital Facility Phase I:
- researched how eCommerce works in Eastern partner countries and compared this to EU best practices;
- produced recommendations for making the EaP eCommerce ecosystem more efficient, easier for businesses, and safer for customers, with individual reports for Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine;
- tested a ‘virtual warehouse’ system where retailers and marketplaces, delivery operators and customs share information electronically, facilitating faster and easier cross-border delivery of products;
- organised events, gathering different groups of people interested in improving EU and EaP eCommerce flows.
eCommerce challenges, trends and examples
EU4Digital has identified the challenges that SMEs face when considering selling online and in the EU. The event participants looked into such challenges at a very practical level, using the example of Tom, owner of the ‘Funky Socks’ manufacturing business. In this case study, Tom has been selling socks for more than three years in Moldova and now wants to expand internationally, but does not know where to start. Initially, he would like to learn which marketplace is the best for selling socks and how to start selling on the major EU marketplaces. The challenges start with a lack of understanding of legal, standards and taxation aspects and include logistics problems and high costs to enter major marketplaces abroad.
The EU4Digital Facility team covered current EU eCommerce trends and practices. They introduced Ecommerce Europe, an association representing more than 150,000 companies selling goods and/or services online in Europe. The association’s structure, strategic priorities and potential joining opportunities for Eastern partner countries were highlighted.
The dominance of major international marketplaces and the importance of eCommerce were emphasised through other practical examples, such as a German eBay case study. This topic introduced the idea of a government-owned ‘national pavilion account’ which allows sellers to list their goods with no extra registration, documentation or other requirements from major marketplaces, and instead provides support in marketing, customer services and other areas. This example correlates to the proposed pilot of such a solution within the scope of the eCommerce accelerator.
eCommerce accelerator activities and benefits
The EU4Digital Facility team introduced the eCommerce accelerator concept and goals, and shared why it is beneficial for the Eastern partner countries to participate.The EU4Digital eCommerce accelerator will offer solutions and benefits to participating SMEs through three key activity tracks:
- Update the eCommerce ecosystem, legal and standards recommendations to improve the basis for eCommerce development and create safer and faster online shopping experiences, placing an emphasis on eCommerce trends.
Participating stakeholders will receive these recommendations for eCommerce environment harmonisation in EaP countries and with the EU.
- Test a national pavilion account solution on a selected major EU marketplace in two selected Eastern partner countries where SMEs can try starting and selling online.
Participating stakeholders can test the solution free of charge and get recommendations on its further use.
- Provide eCommerce training and individual consultations for SMEs and develop a sustainable eCommerce training package, strengthening skills for selling on major international marketplaces (e.g. Amazon and eBay).
Participating SMEs wanting to enter international marketplaces and expand their sales through their personal selling accounts will receive training and consultations.
Through these actions, EU4Digital aims to boost the volume of cross-border eCommerce with EU countries by eliminating barriers, testing the concept of EaP SMEs selling on major EU marketplaces at low cost, and raising awareness among involved and potential stakeholders.
The timeline for the EU4Digital eCommerce accelerator activities is January – December 2023.
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