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In a recent survey of small-business executives, Amazon Business found that many small firms are looking for growth through procurement technology investment and are worried about falling behind if they don’t adopt AI applications this year.

Small businesses involved in B2B ecommerce face multiple challenges in 2024, but nearly all of them feel positive overall about the economy, Amazon Business found in a recent survey.

50% of survey respondents said they’re worried about falling behind if they don’t invest this year in AI.

93% of small businesses in the United States are “hopeful” about the state of economy this year, despite lingering concerns among many regarding inflation (50%), high operations and labor costs (42%) and supply chain distribution challenges (41%), Amazon Business found in the Small Business Survey of “450-500” small-business decision-makers.

The survey found that, to grow their business, these decision-makers are focusing on increasing their procurement budgets (65%) and investing in procurement tools (49%); 68% said there “is room for optimization in their procurement operations,” Amazon says.

AI also factors in their concerns: 50% of survey respondents said they’re worried about falling behind in their market if they don’t invest this year in artificial intelligence technologies. The survey didn’t get into more specifics about the kind of AI technology projects companies were considering. Research firm Morning Consult conducted the survey this year between March 20 and April 12; respondents were from businesses doing $25 million or less in annual revenue with workforces ranging from 20 to 100 employees.

Advice and monetary grants for small online businesses

Amazon Business, as part of its third annual Small Business Month initiative this month, is calling attention to the challenges and opportunities small companies face. In addition to the results of the Small Business Survey, Amazon Business launched this month the Small Business Success Studio and the 2024 edition of its annual Small Business Grants program.

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Amazon Business — which launched as a business in 2015 and has already surpassed $35 billion in annual gross merchandise sales — is offering the Small Business Success Studio is a free “on-demand, immersive online educational resource to help entrepreneurs “start, grow, and/or scale their businesses” with essential know-how across finance, marketing, procurement, and operations.”

“Aimed at being a strategic partner for growth, the studio supports small business owners at every step of their journey, fueling inspiration, education, and community,” Amazon says.

The Small Business Success Studio also features online videos featuring the growth stories of business operators that work with Amazon Business, including Allison Ellsworth, co-founder and chief brand officer of soft drink company poppi, and Rodney Marshall, owner and founder of Aldevra, a distributor of equipment and services for the foodservice and health care industries.

Amazon Business is offering a total of $250,000 in funding through its 2024 Small Business Grants program, which it says is “designed to spur innovation and support the growth of small businesses that are driving an impact in their local communities.”

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The grants program is open to existing Amazon Business customers with annual revenue of $1 million or less. Amazon will divide the grant funds among a grand prize winner, four finalists and 10 semi-finalists.

Independent sellers average over $250,000 in annual sales

Amazon also released this week the 2023 edition of its annual Small Business Empowerment Report, which covers ecommerce activity of both B2B and B2C sellers on Amazon.

In 2023, independent sellers on the Amazon.com’s U.S. marketplace, including B2B and B2C merchants, employed more than 1.8 million people and sold over 4.5 billion items in aggregate, averaging more than $250,000 in annual sales, Amazon says in the 2023 Small Business Empowerment Report.

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Amazon adds that more than 60% of Amazon’s marketplace sales come from independent sellers, most of whom are small and midsized businesses.

The company also noted in the report:

  • U.S.-based sellers exported more than 300 million items to customers in over 130 countries.
  • More than 100,000 independent sellers have used one or more of Amazon’s generative AI product listing tools to develop product detail pages with product descriptions and images.
  • More than 100,000 new brands launched on Amazon’s marketplace, and all brand owners grew sales by more than 22% over 2022.
  • In rural areas last year, including parts of Alaska, Kansas, North Dakota and Utah, independent sellers n Amazon collectively achieved over 60% year-over-year sales growth. The five states with the fastest-growing number of independent seller on Amazon were in Maine, Nevada, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
  • The five most-shipped product categories from U.S. sellers on Amazon last year were Health & Personal Care, Beauty, Home, Grocery and Apparel.

Paul Demery is a Digital Commerce 360 contributing editor covering B2B digital commerce technology and strategy. [email protected].

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