Saturday 28 November 2015

New scheme to help SMEs Go Global online

By Jeremy Koh, The Straits Times, 27 Nov 2015

Online commerce is booming, so local firms will no doubt welcome a new website and related services offering guidance on selling goods and services over the Internet.

The "Go Global" initiative, backed by heavyweights such as Google and key government agencies, is aimed at local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

It was launched yesterday.

SME bosses can now watch videos by experts on topics relating to selling products digitally. These topics include setting up e-payments systems, navigating international tax processes and structuring a returns policy.

Google and nine other industry partners which launched Go Global will all contribute content.

"The Internet is transformative. It will tear down barriers that have stopped small businesses from thinking and acting as big as they want to be," said Ms Joanna Flint, Google's Singapore director, at the launch of the initiative yesterday.

Google's partners are Spring Singapore, International Enterprise (IE) Singapore, CyberSource, law firm Rajah & Tann Singapore, RSM, SingPost, United Overseas Bank, UOB-SMU Asian Enterprise Institute and Verztec Consulting.

The website also provides businesses with data on demand levels for their products in a given overseas market, and how much competition they will face there.

Using another tool, businesses can also assess how conducive their websites are to supporting online sales.

Regular workshops will be held to help firms improve online sales.

Yesterday, the initiative held its first workshop on export strategy and overseas marketing, for representatives from about 100 SMEs.

Grants will be given to help SMEs defray costs under the initiative. The amount will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

At the event, Mr Kuok Meng Ru, managing director at Swee Lee Music, spoke about his firm's experience in growing online sales. Swee Lee sells products like musical instruments and audio equipment.

Swee Lee Online was launched last year and the online store now contributes 15 per cent of the company's global retail revenue.

Swee Lee used Google Analytics to determine how many people from a certain country visited the site, what attracted them to the site and what they did there, Mr Kuok said.

Google Analytics also helped the company make decisions relating to what buttons, products and advertisements to place on its site, and where to place them.

The firm used Google AdWords to target advertisements at online users of a certain demographic to see how they responded, he said.

Mr Tan Soon Kim, assistant chief executive officer at IE Singapore, said: "Companies in Singapore have to venture overseas if they wish to achieve scale, due to our limited domestic market size.

"IE sees this Go Global programme as a capability-building platform which equips companies with the wherewithal to go digital, which in turns enables them to also go international eventually."

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