According to the OECD, Australian exports rose from 18 per cent of GDP to 21 per cent from 2004 to 2010, with a 23 per cent peak in 2008. Now, these numbers are not bad at all but compared to other nations in the OECD, there is definitely room for improvement.
Canada exports accounted for a third of its GDP over the same period, France’s exports are over a quarter of its economy, and even New Zealand exports more than Australia compared to its GDP. The only OECD countries to whom exports are lower are the US and Japan.
But with our gloomy economic environment, who can blame us? And yet it turns out that somehow, despite this, Australian SMEs are actually prolific exporters – particularly when they leverage the Internet and online marketplaces such as eBay.
Australian entrepreneurs that are looking for customers beyond the borders, are using the Internet to tear the barriers of geographical remoteness and the high Australian dollar. You know what they say; when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
Take, David O’Connor, the owner of Boots4all, for example. He sells 100 per cent Australian made boots. He has seen the market blossom beyond his local retail stores in Melbourne and Sydney, to an international level by listing on online marketplaces such as eBay.
In fact, a recent report commissioned by eBay revealed that 78 per cent of Australian businesses on eBay export, compared to only 3 percent of their traditional peers who have no online presence.
On top of that, on average, Australian commercial eBay sellers with export sales of $10,000 or more export to 28 destinations. That’s more export destinations than those in Germany and France, who closely border many more countries!
The report also found that eBay represents almost one in five of Australian retailers (with annual sales of $50,000-$200,000) so Australian SMEs clearly have quite a presence on eBay.
PayPal too recently released report into ‘modern spice routes’ which predicts that cross-border online shopping will contribute $5 billion to the Australian economy this year, and will increase to $16 billion by 2018.
The study found shoppers in China, the United States and the United Kingdom are most interested in buying our products. And in terms of year-on-year growth in Australian online retail exports, Thailand is the fastest growing market at a rate of 105 per cent, followed by Russia at 67 per cent and Israel at 55 per cent.
Furthermore, we have come to notice that as the companies that sell on the Internet grow, their product ranges tend to decline. They often find a niche where they have a competitive advantage and specialise.
Sassoon Grigorian is the Head of Policy, Asia Pacific at eBay.