SMB Ambitions Barometer
To understand the ambitions, and challenges, of entrepreneurs and business owners, Payoneer surveyed 3,575 SMBs across 15 countries. What we found: SMBs see developing their businesses internationally as key to achieving their goals. However, many do not feel prepared to expand their business to a new country. Nevertheless, the majority of SMBs are optimistic about…
Welcome from John Caplan
Welcome to the launch of Payoneer’s SMB Ambitions Barometer, a report that measures and highlights the ambitions and challenges of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) across the world.
In this report, you can find the trends, achievements, and ambitions of today’s entrepreneurs and business owners from 15 countries; you’ll also get to better understand the challenges they face and strategies they adopt when expanding to new markets, such as navigating cultural and language barriers, managing cross-border payments, high inflation, and geo-political events.
At Payoneer, we are passionate about supporting and celebrating SMBs that have expanded, or are looking to expand, their business internationally. SMBs are the drivers of global economic growth by creating jobs, fostering innovation, and strengthening communities.
I hope that this report serves as a valuable resource to you – key participants in the connected global economy. Payoneer is committed to making it easier to grow a global business by providing an easy, secure, and cost-effective solution to managing international business payments, and we look forward to supporting SMBs’ ambitions and their continued success in the years to come.
CEO of Payoneer
Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are the engines of growth and innovation around the world.
To better understand the ambitions, and challenges, of entrepreneurs and business owners, Payoneer launched the SMB Ambitions Barometer. We surveyed 3,575 SMBs across 15 countries (US, Brazil, Argentina, UK, Serbia, France, Israel, Ukraine, China, South Korea, Vietnam, Philippines, India, Bangladesh and UAE), and across industries including ecommerce, business and professional services, IT and computer-related services, financial services, hospitality, and more.
What we found: SMBs see developing their businesses internationally as key to achieving their goals, with 72% viewing cross-border expansion as a means to increasing their customer base and revenues. Most expect to see increased export revenues, as well as a larger number of cross-border vendors and suppliers they work with.
However, many do not necessarily feel prepared to expand their business to a new country. They are also negatively impacted by global trade disruptions like supply chain setbacks, changes in trade regulations and currency volatilities, in addition to language and cultural barriers when doing business across borders.
Nevertheless, the majority of SMBs are optimistic about their business outlook and expect to double their revenue growth rates in the next two years (vs. the previous two) through a combination of digitization, innovation, and continued support from their governments and business communities.
With such ambition, SMBs will continue to be significant players in the global arena, driving economic growth in today’s increasingly interconnected world.
SMBs are going global
Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are the backbone of economies around the world, driving innovation, and job creation. They are also, increasingly, looking to new geographic markets to achieve business growth.
72% of the SMBs surveyed believe global expansion results in increased revenue and customer base, recognizing the potential for international markets to provide the growth opportunities they need to succeed. In addition, having a diverse and global vendor network is also seen as a protection against macro disruptions.
Believe global expansion results in
Increased revenue and customer base
SMBs are globalizing demand
The proportion of SMB revenue from exports has increased by nine percentage points, on average – from 52% in 2021 to 61% in 2022, and is expected to grow to 69% by the end of 2023.
Are expected to be export driven
By the end of 2023 (up from 52% in 2021)
Today’s SMB customer base tend to be local – on average, roughly 59% are based domestically, compared to 42% based overseas.
However, the proportion between international and domestic customers is rapidly balancing out, and this proportion is expected to grow from an average of 42% (international) to 50% by 2024.
Wholesale SMBs lead the way in export growth
SMBs in the Wholesale industry are expecting the most significant surge in export revenues, with an estimated increase of 21 percentage points between 2021 and 2023. Not far behind, businesses in professional services, ecommerce, and financial services sectors are also expected to experience substantial growth in exports, with anticipated increases of 19, 18, and 18 percentage point growth, respectively.
SMBs in UAE, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Brazil expect to experience the highest increases in revenues earned from exports.
*very small sample size for Ukraine
Expected percentage point increase in revenue growth from exports, by country (2021-2023)
SMBs are looking to Europe and Central Asia for new customers
The European and Central Asia markets present attractive opportunities for SMBs seeking to tap into a diverse consumer base.
SMBs are diversifying their supply and vendor pools
In addition to expanding their customer bases, SMBs are also turning to more vendors and suppliers to increase agility and resiliency. On average, respondents work with 22 vendors today, up from 17 vendors two years ago. Most of these vendors offer technology services (42%), followed by manufacturing (36%), and suppliers/sourcing (34%).
Suppliers / Sourcing
The most common types of vendors global SMBs work with
Many plan to continue this growth – respondents expect to work with an average of 30 vendors within the next two years. SMBs from the UAE and Bangladesh have the largest vendor ecosystems and expect aggressive growth, expanding the number of vendors they work with from 24 vendors in 2020 to 32/33 in 2022, up to 42/44 within the next two years.
SMBs expect to increase not only the number of vendors they work with but also the proportion of international vendors in their portfolio. Expanding the number of international vendors enables SMBs to mitigate risks associated with supply chain disruptions, diversify their sourcing strategies, and enhance their overall resilience.
Today, vendor ecosystems skew domestic (61% vs. 39% international), especially for businesses in Brazil, Argentina, and France, but this split is expected to even out in the next two years, to 52% domestic, vs. 48% international.
Digitization fuels globalization
The aforementioned SMB globalization trends and ambitions can be attributed to several factors.
Advancements in technology (including ecommerce platforms, digital communication tools and digital payment platforms) have significantly reduced barriers to international trade and increased access to global demand and a broader pool of vendors and solutions that may not be readily available domestically.
The level of digitization, though, does vary by industry. Ecommerce sellers earn 91% of their income online, compared to financial services and education sectors (77% and 71%, respectively). SMBs in wholesale, agriculture, mining, manufacturing, architecture and engineering are trailing in the digitization of their business, where less than 25% of their revenues are earned online.
ecommerce / online sellers
Arts & entertainment
Mining & Quarrying
Architecture & engineering
How much of a company’s revenue is earned online by industry
Survey respondents from both goods and services (e.g. IT, business) industries consider themselves as early adopters of new technology: 44% of each group stated that they are often the first to embrace emerging technologies, and an additional 32% each claimed to adopt these technologies fairly quickly.
“As a family-owned and operated company since day one, we believe a big factor to our success has been offering efficient and personable service to our clientele and contractors. However, we must also give credit to the mindset shift that has occurred globally within the past few years, as companies are more open-minded to remote work. With that, our goal is to bridge the distance between our clients and the skilled workers around the world.”Megan Powell,
COO of Temark International, Virtual Assistant Services, United States
Global ambitions, global challenges
While small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have seen significant success by going global, expanding a business overseas can be a daunting task. SMBs often have limited resources, both financial and otherwise, which can make it difficult to establish a presence in a foreign market. Furthermore, they may lack the expertise needed to navigate the complexities of international trade, such as complying with foreign regulations, navigating logistics challenges, and cultural differences.
With such challenges in mind, ‘launching a business in new countries’ is the area in which SMBs surveyed believe they have the weakest performance.
Adding to this perceived weakness is the vulnerability of global supply chains. Out of all the turbulent events of the past two years, global supply chain disruptions rank as the most disruptive, and are expected to continue to be the most troublesome element in running a business in the near future.
“SMBs face significant challenges and hurdles such as supply chain disruptions, currency volatility, language and cultural barriers, access to working capital, and cross-border payment issues. But these challenges are not insurmountable. With the right tools and resources, SMBs can mitigate these risks and successfully expand into new markets.”Adam Cohen,
Chief Growth Officer at Payoneer
Macro events and cultural challenges
SMBs are the backbone of the global economy, but they are also some of the most vulnerable players.
Despite being impacted just as much by external and industry events, such as geopolitical conflicts and currency volatilities, as their multinational corporate counterparts, SMBs often lack the resources and scale to fight them.
COVID-19, inflation, and the general global economic downturn, have had the most negative impacts on SMBs in the past two years.
In addition to external events, language and cultural barriers, and the high cost of doing business are barriers to geographical expansion.
Language and cultural differences can impede effective communication, hinder market understanding, and pose obstacles to building strong relationships with local stakeholders. They create difficulties in navigating legal and regulatory frameworks, negotiating contracts, and complying with local customs.
External events and disruptions
Language and cultural barriers
Cost of doing business
The biggest barriers for SMBs looking to expand to new geographical markets
Mastering international payments and finances
Over 90% of SMBs are actively sending and receiving payments to and from at least three different countries. The United States, China, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia emerge as the most popular sender and receiver countries.
However, it is concerning to note that a staggering 80% of these SMBs are either unprepared or lack confidence in managing currency volatility. This underscores the importance of providing adequate support and resources to SMBs, enabling them to navigate the complexities of fluctuating exchange rates and develop strategies to mitigate the risks associated with currency fluctuations.
feel unprepared,or are not confident, about
THEIR ABILITIES TO HANDLE CURRENCY VOLATILITY
SMBs lack cross-border financial tools
Moreover, while 51% of SMBs have access to multiple payment options for vendors and customers, the majority, over 60%, do not currently have, nor expect to have in the near future, additional cross-border financial management capabilities such as real-time currency conversion, the ability to accept payments on their websites, payroll solutions for multiple countries, or multi-currency cards to pay for goods and services. 76% lack multi-currency cards to pay for goods and services and 69% are not able to pay employees and contractors in multiple countries.
Lack multi-currency cards
to pay for goods and services
Despite the growing volume of international payments, SMBs continue to face significant cross-border payment challenges. The top three cited payment-related challenges that are often, or always, a barrier to cross-border trade for global SMBs are financial exchange rates, transfer fees, and slow transaction times.
For businesses looking to grow their revenues and customer base internationally, these challenges can pose significant obstacles. Slow transaction times and high transfer fees can impact cash flow and limit the ability to reinvest in the business, while managing foreign exchange rates can be complex and costly, particularly for businesses with limited resources.
Without access to payment solutions that are specifically designed for their needs, SMBs may face higher transaction fees, longer processing times, and greater complexity in managing foreign exchange rates, and other financial considerations. This can limit their ability to compete effectively in international markets and may ultimately hinder their growth potential.
“From starting our business in 2018 we have now grown to over 80 people with all of our revenues and customers coming from abroad. As we look to grow even further, our main business priority right now is sales and marketing. But when expanding globally, it’s always about having the right infrastructure in place. For service companies like ourselves, with contractors now based across 15 different countries, that means being able to make payments to them easily and at low cost. It’s all about survival now as the market is very tough, so efficiency is key.”Maksym Petruk,
CEO and Founder of WeSoftYou, Software Development Company, Ukraine
Bright opportunities ahead
Despite all the challenges, SMBs exhibit a remarkable sense of optimism regarding a more globalized future. At least two-thirds of SMBs feel somewhat or very supported by their governments in a number of areas today – and similar percentages remain optimistic about their government’s support in the foreseeable future.
Most, currently, feel supported by their governments in helping them with advisory and training, export and trade assistance, tax incentives, etc., and believe their governments will continue to be supportive in the next two years too. Through such initiatives, governments are playing a crucial role in bolstering SMBs’ confidence and fostering their growth.
SMBs in Asia-Pacific feel most supported, whereas SMBs in Ukraine, Serbia, and Argentina, feel less so.
SMBs are innovating, at pace
Recognizing the transformative power of emerging technologies, SMBs are also embracing digitalization, automation, artificial intelligence, and other cutting-edge tools to enhance efficiency, expand capabilities, and unlock new growth opportunities.
Play on using artificial intelligence (AI)
within the next two years or are already piloting it
A significant majority (58-65%) of SMBs are embracing digitalization and have a positive outlook on it, today and in the future. Their goal is to make their operations more efficient, allocate resources effectively, and provide improved products and services that cater to the changing demands of their customers.
The majority of SMBs expect revenue growth rates to double
By 2024 the majority of SMBs expect their
average annual revenue growth rate to double,
Those with a mixed B2B and B2C business model are more likely than others to expect revenue growth: 81% of mixed-model businesses expect their revenue to grow, compared with
SMBs in the UAE, Philippines, and Argentina are most optimistic about their business outlook.
Some final words
Globalization is very much alive and well for SMBs around the world. 72% view cross-border expansion as a means to increasing their customer base and revenues; with revenues earned from exports increasing significantly over the past year, the trend is expected to continue in 2024 and beyond.
However, to do so successfully, SMBs will need to overcome a range of challenges, from navigating global supply chain disruptions and economic headwinds to overcoming international payments and financing hurdles.
While the challenges are real, we see that most SMBs remain optimistic and ambitious about their future in a rapidly changing, but more connected, world.
Payoneer partnered with Oxford Economics to carry out an online survey in November 2022 to survey 3,575 decision-makers from small-and medium-sized businesses (250 employees or fewer) around the world. Our research set out to understand how SMBs plan to expand their business across borders and the challenges they face in achieving their goals, including disruptive global events and inefficient payment processes. Our sample consists of CEOs, owners, CFOs, finance directors, and managers—all of whom influence or have decision-making responsibility over their company’s strategies and operations.
The online survey was conducted at the end of 2022 and included respondents from 15 countries: the United States (253), Brazil (251), Argentina (251), the United Kingdom (252), Serbia (250), France (251), Israel (251), South Korea (250), the Philippines (250), Vietnam (252), China (252), India (252), Bangladesh (251), the United Arab Emirates (251), and Ukraine (58).
We surveyed goods and services providers across 16 industries, including business and professional services (253), financial services (243); IT and computer-related services (269); arts and entertainment (223); architecture and engineering (239); education (219); hospitality (232); healthcare (227); personal services (218); ecommerce (238); retail (259); wholesale (236); transport, logistics, and warehousing (214); manufacturing (241); agriculture, forestry, and fishing (160); and mining and quarrying (102).
A note about Ukraine
For the Ukraine sample, the online survey was distributed to Payoneer clients from November 29th, 2022 through January 26th, 2023.
About Oxford Economics
Oxford Economics is the world’s foremost independent economic advisory firm. Covering over 200 countries, over 100 industrial sectors and 8,000 cities and regions, we provide insights and solutions that enable clients to make intelligent and responsible business decisions faster in an increasingly complex and uncertain world.
For more information, visit http://www.oxfordeconomics.com
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