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Boost the e-commerce of your agribusiness SME

Is it true that the future of commerce for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) is online?

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Published by ConnectAmericas

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For agri-food sector producers accustomed to face-to-face negotiations and who have built their reputation through personal relationships, this prediction may not be the best news and, on the contrary, may seem intimidating.

However, it is important to highlight that e-commerce does not necessarily mean the end of other forms of selling, and many customers are likely to use more than one. Nevertheless, it provides an opportunity for agribusiness SMEs to better position themselves in national and international markets.

The best way to take advantage of the benefits that e-commerce offers to SMEs is to find the right solution for each business, one that is compatible with its traditional sales channels and has the approval of the sales team.

How Does E-commerce Work?

In simple terms, e-commerce involves the buying and selling of information, products, and services using the internet. In a broader sense, it encompasses any type of commercial activity based on electronic transfers and the exchange of information.

Examples of e-commerce include a subscription to a digital newspaper (information buying and selling), purchasing a phone on Aliexpress or Amazon (product buying and selling), or renting a room on a platform like Airbnb (service buying and selling).

As seen in these examples, e-commerce utilizes an online platform for all its operations, unlike a traditional business website that only showcases products or services.

This allows companies to sell not only in their own country but also to other countries. However, there are considerations between national and international e-commerce, such as the legislation of each country, methods of delivering goods, or payment methods.

Types of E-commerce

One way to categorize types of e-commerce is based on who the seller and the buyer are.

  • B2B (business to business): Operations between businesses, e.g., Alibaba.
  • B2C (business to consumer): Commerce between a business and a consumer, e.g., Amazon.
  • C2C (consumer to consumer): Commerce between consumers, e.g., eBay.
  • B2G (business to government): Operations between a business and the government, such as an online public tender.

To determine the appropriate e-commerce solution for your business, it is necessary to have a clear sales strategy. For example, if you want to have an online store, meaning you are looking for a B2C e-commerce solution, you can create your store from scratch, use ready-made solutions, or turn to existing electronic markets like eBay or Amazon.

On the other hand, if you prefer a business-to-business e-commerce solution, you can think about international platforms that complement or serve as an exclusive channel for exporting your products.

Best E-commerce Solution for SMEs

While the right solution for each business depends on its sales strategy, B2C and B2B e-commerce options are the most common among SMEs.

  1. Creating a Virtual Store from Scratch: Programming it from scratch involves hiring a programmer to create all the elements of your store. This option adapts to your needs and vision but has the disadvantage of depending on a programmer, which can become an obstacle if you stop working with that person.

  2. Ready-Made Virtual Store Solutions: Creating a virtual store using platforms like WordPress, adding e-commerce modules through various plugins. Alternatively, you can use ready-made solutions that already include drop-shipping options, such as PrestaShop, Wix, and Magento.

  3. Using Electronic Markets: Platforms where commercial exchanges occur between businesses (B2B) or between businesses and individuals (B2C), such as Amazon.

For B2B solutions, these can serve as a complement or an exclusive channel for selling your products. Alibaba is one such B2B platform, considered the world's largest B2B market. There are also specialized markets, which can be specialized by geographic area or product type.

For more information on different B2C and B2B solution options, consult Module 3 of the online course "Integration and E-commerce."

Why is E-commerce Important for Agribusiness SMEs?

E-commerce offers several opportunities for SMEs, such as reducing operating costs since a virtual store may have a lower investment cost than a physical store. Furthermore, existing virtual stores can facilitate entry into e-commerce and reach a broader global demand.

Another advantage that e-commerce offers to SMEs is that, unlike a physical store, it can keep its virtual store "open," meaning customers can make purchases at any time.

E-commerce also expands business opportunities for SMEs and gives them a competitive advantage by keeping products always visible and accessible to more people.

Additionally, it allows you to improve your relationship with customers as you can learn more about them and obtain data on the products you sell and those you don't.

Tips for Successful E-commerce:

Regardless of the e-commerce solution you decide to implement for your business, remember that success lies in the details, and every e-commerce solution should offer a meaningful, fast, and efficient experience to customers.

Here are some recommendations to enhance your e-commerce:

  • Maximize User Experience: Focus on maximizing the online experience for users to increase the likelihood of completing a purchase and even returning to your virtual store. Consider eliminating pop-ups or unimportant notifications, for example.

  • Make a Good First Impression: Pay attention to technical issues such as loading speed and web performance. Very slow loading speed can lead to high abandonment rates.

  • Embrace Your Measurement Process: What is not measured cannot be improved. It is important to measure in detail and accurately the progress of users at each stage of the purchase in your virtual store. This will allow you to continuously optimize your site's conversion rate.

  • Build Brand Positioning and Online Loyalty: Building a bond with your customers can help them prefer your product for the quality they experienced - and remember - from an in-person purchase. Transfer those brand attributes to the online world to leverage the trust already built.

  • Consider Promotions and Offers: Customers appreciate and respond well to proposals for promotions, product mixes, and offers. Keep in mind that a unique offer for your customers can also be a tool, such as a calculator function in your virtual store.

Tools to Boost Your E-commerce:

Finally, here are some tools that will be useful when implementing your e-commerce solution. We also recommend reviewing the online course "Integration and E-commerce," where we expand on all the information mentioned in this article.

  • Export Potential Map: To identify opportunities in international markets.

  • EU Trade Helpdesk: To learn about tariff barriers in the European market.

  • MarketAccesMap: To learn about non-tariff barriers (technical or sanitary) by importing or exporting country.

  • eMarketServices: Select target countries for export and identify market studies. eMarketServices, which, through a questionnaire, indicates how prepared you are and offers a series of recommendations.

  • Webinar on selling on Amazon: With the support of tools such as Amazon Logistics and the Sales Portal for Suppliers. It also explains principles and standards to consider from the FDA in the United States.

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