Business development · 4 May 2017

Lack of digital skills holding you back? Selling online is simpler than you think

A previous Amazon Academy event in full swing
A previous Amazon Academy event in full swing

Amazon and Enterprise Nation have teamed up to offer Amazon Academy Scotland, a free one-day digital skills training event for small businesses taking place at the EICC in Edinburgh on 23 May.

Small businesses in the UK have an ever-increasing range of digital opportunities. Here’s why it could be time for these companies to begin selling online.

There is a digital skills gap in the UK, and currently 72 per cent of large companies and 49 per cent of SMEs have felt the pinch. The best and brightest often flock to corporates and well-established companies – it takes a special kind of startup to lure in top talent, and you must have something to offer.

According to the Digital Skills for the UK Economy 2016 report: “There is a clear mismatch in the types of skill offered by the labour market and those demanded. In different ways and to different extents, this trend is likely to be holding back the growth of tech and non-tech companies alike.”

It often falls to small business owners themselves to take the digital reigns, or to train up existing staff. There’s a lot of help out there these days when it comes to selling online, and it might not be as difficult as you think to get tech savvy.

In fact, the report found that there is a clear, positive link between market competitiveness and the uptake and application of digital technology in the workplace. That is, companies that seize digital opportunities are more likely to be competitive.

That’s why Amazon Academy Scotland, a one-day training event for small businesses, has been launched – held at the EICC in Edinburgh on 23 May.

Speaking about the partnership, Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation, said: “The great thing about the Amazon Academy is that it is training small business owners on how they can improve their digital skills and capabilities, and that’s something we’ve been working on for the past couple of years.”

Digital opportunities for SMEs

So how can small businesses, or those in rural areas without links to cities or the top tech talent, possibly compete with the bigger players out there?

“As long as the broadband and fibre reaches homes in rural areas, Amazon can come in and create economic activity,” said Jones.

“If you look at, say, the Scottish geographic landscape – the highlands and islands such as the Isle of Skye – this is just an incredible opportunity for people who live in these amazingly beautiful areas, but may have felt previously that they’ve been cut off from running their own business. Amazon Marketplace and other services open up that opportunity.”

The Amazon Academy will feature tips and advice for startups looking to enter the world of ecommerce using its Marketplace service.

The SME Growth Tracker, a poll of SMEs commissioned by Amazon UK and Enterprise Nation, found that around 45 per cent of all SMEs owners use ecommerce, and of those that do, they expect around 48 per cent of all revenues to be through ecommerce channels in the coming year. This perhaps gives some insight into the sizeable opportunity out there for small businesses that are ready to go digital.

The SME Growth Tracker also found those companies who export to customers around the world through ecommerce are forecasting the strongest growth in the coming year.

The world is your oyster

If you are considering expanding your business offering overseas, there’s no better time – having loyal customers overseas can help bolster small businesses against Brexit uncertainty.

Using Amazon Marketplace is a fantastic way to market your products and build your brand online to worldwide audiences, and you might be surprised how much the “Made in Britain” or “Made in Scotland” brand carries weight overseas.

“If you look at products that historically have been known as Scottish, take whisky for instance, that sells incredibly well in international markets,” said Jones.

The tip of the iceberg

Getting your products online and offering ecommerce, or even exporting your goods or services, is really just the tip of the iceberg.

The Amazon Academy in Edinburgh will seek to explore the ways owners can utilise their company’s tools and services to grow their business, including Amazon Marketplace, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and even Alexa. In addition, the event will include business support services from its partners, Enterprise Nation, Scottish Enterprise and Entrepreneurial Spark – no matter what stage your business is at, there will be something new to learn.

There are so many ways to take a company digital and reap the benefits – whether that’s marketing, selling, digital assistants, the opportunities are endless. What’s more, it is increasingly becoming the norm – yet without the digital skills to back it up small businesses risk getting left behind.

Register for your Amazon Academy Scotland free ticket here

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Letitia Booty is a special projects journalist for Business Advice. She has a BA in English Literature from the University of East Anglia, and since graduating she has written for a variety of trade titles. Most recently, she was a reporter at SME magazine.

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