In a poll of SMEs, just 33% of those with e-commerce operations expect online sales to decline or stay flat in 2018, while 67% project an increase. Almost half say cyber security is a top priority.

Small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with e-commerce operations are optimistic about 2018 sales, but cyber security and the complexities of expanding globally have them worried, a survey conducted in April 2018 by global logistics company DHL Express U.S. finds.

Among the key findings, based on more than 14,000 responses, are:

  • For 2018 as a whole, just 33% of respondents with e-commerce operations said they expected e-commerce sales to decline or stay flat, while 67% projected an increase.
  • Among the roughly 2,400 respondents with existing e-commerce operations, 25% of respondents said they projected e-commerce sales to increase 76% to 100% in the first quarter of 2018 compared with the same period in 2017.
  • Asked to name the biggest advantage of leveraging the international marketplace—versus the domestic market only—36% said having the ability to raise pay for their workers. 29% said the biggest advantage was increased sales.

In terms of where to put their e-commerce investment dollars, 48% of those surveyed say cybersecurity is the top priority, while 20% say customer service platforms were most important.

When asked what SMEs should prioritize in their e-commerce strategy if they want to succeed globally, 35% said understanding international trade policies and customs requirements was the top priority, while 29% said the top priority was researching potential markets and understanding the customer base in those markets.

Those priorities make sense. Last month, Philip Rooke, CEO of Spreadshirt Inc., told Internet Retailer that the growth of e-commerce is prompting governments to seek ways to collect more taxes from online orders shipped across borders.

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Automation is helping customs officials scan more parcels crossing borders, leading to more demands that e-retailers collect taxes. And in some cases, countries are changing the laws to raise more taxes from cross-border e-commerce. For example, a new law taking effect July 1 will require tax collection on more goods shipped to Australia, Rooke says.

“Increasingly, governments are looking to how they can tax cross-border e-commerce, and that’s making things a little more complicated,” Rooke says. Spreadshirt, which sells T-shirts to consumers around the world, incorporates customs duties and applicable sales taxes into the prices it charges shoppers so shoppers don’t have to waste time collecting their orders from customs offices.

On the positive side, the growth in online shopping across borders has led shipping companies to provide faster and more reliable delivery around the world, Rooke says. And the major carriers now provide better services for consumers wishing to return items purchased from websites abroad, he says.

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