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Alibaba survey data indicates online sales will play a significantly larger role in small businesses' overall strategy in 2024, highlighting the increasing importance of ecommerce platforms.

As the mid-year approaches, U.S. small businesses are in an acceptable position to grow sales and expand ecommerce, says a new survey from Alibaba.com.

The results, chronicled in Alibaba’s 2024 State of U.S. Buyers Survey, find that most small businesses are in a good mood and anticipating decent  ecommerce performance.

“84% of companies have at least a cautiously optimistic outlook for this year, with 44% being very optimistic,” according to the survey. “6% are pessimistic or very pessimistic about their online business growth this year.”

For many small business organizations, growing ecommerce is a top priority this year. The survey finds that only 53% of respondents sell online, compared with 44% that don’t and 3% that won’t consider ecommerce as a sales channel.


Ecommerce obstructions for small businesses

The top digital barriers for small businesses to overcome include:

  • Digital marketing effectiveness (50%)
  • Customer communications (34%)
  • Technology infrastructure and upgrades (31%)

“When comparing this year’s challenges to last, it’s clear that the top issues have remained steady: Lead generation and cash flow,” the survey says.

For more than three-fourths of small businesses ecommerce — and the increased use of artificial intelligence — remain top priorities.

“In 2024, 75% of respondents foresee online business playing a significantly larger role in their overall strategy, highlighting the increasing importance of e-commerce platforms,” according to the survey. “This trend underscores the evolving digital landscape and the potential for broader audience reach and business growth.”


With AI, about two-thirds of survey respondents are already using some form of machine learning. Meanwhile, other companies are looking to start up at least a small program.

“Adoption has been remarkably slow in high-earning companies, with 83% of respondents from companies making over $5M not using AI,” the survey says. “However, one company in that financial range that uses AI noted, ‘Yes, AI is used in almost every aspect of the business.’”

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