TALLINN - Despite the e-commerce volumes constantly increasing, just a quarter of small and medium-sized Estonian enterprises (SMEs) utilize online sales channels and the situation is similar in Latvia and Lithuania, the SEB Baltic Business Outlook (BBO) survey indicated, adding that especially in the current state of emergency, e-commerce is one escape route to restore turnover.
"The survey indicates that Baltic SMEs do not rush digitalization, as just about a quarter of them sell their goods and services online, like a year ago -- this is clearly too little. In addition, a quarter of Estonian and Lithuanian SMEs say that they are not planning to contribute to digitalization in the near future and the interest is even lower in Latvia," SEB board member Ainar Leppanen said in a press release.
"In the current state of emergency, in which many enterprises are trying to survive, which in fact is the most crucial thing to do, it might be thought that digitalization takes a back seat. However, while thinking of the escape routes that would help to overcome the crisis, SMEs should definitely reconsider the e-commerce options for themselves," Leppanen added.
Digitalization is most valued by Estonian SMEs as 55 percent of the respondents consider it important. The indicator in Latvia and Lithuania is 47 percent and 51 percent, respectively. Altogether 28 percent of Lithuanian, 26 percent of Estonian and 21 percent of Latvian SMEs utilize digital channels to sell their products and services. Thereby, within a year, Lithuania's indicator has increased by six percentage points, while the indicator has not changed in Estonia or Latvia, it appears from the survey.
According to SEB, Estonian e-commerce clearly continues to grow and compared to 2017, the volume of online purchases made with bank cards has increased by more than 50 percent.
"Two things shall definitely happen in the current state of emergency: first, the sales of goods shall decrease both in physical and digital channels. On the other hand, for many enterprises, e-channels are still the best or even the only option to sell their goods. We hope that the restrictions do not last long but, while thinking of the future, the SMEs should definitely consider whether and how their enterprise trading channels could help to hedge such risks that have become today's reality," Leppanen added.
SEB BBO is a pan-Baltic survey, which SEB Bank has carried out among SME leaders since 2013. It summarizes the expectations of Baltic SMEs in five important fields: turnover, number of employees, export, innovation and investments. This SEB BBO was prepared based on the answers received from 3,664 Baltic SMEs. The survey was conducted in December of last year.