Story: Digital audits reinforce the e-commerce ecosystem

9 February 2021
ITC News

Most small businesses across the world appreciate the need to accelerate their digital transformations and develop new sales channels online. Few, however, have the skill set to optimize their websites or social media platforms. Many of the small businesses ITC works with need focused recommendations and instructions on how to maximize their online presence.

From this need, the International Trade Centre’s ecomConnect team created digital audit reviews across sectors. The audits serve as a check-up of the company’s website and social media platforms to improve their visibility on search engines but also to improve the overall performance, design (UI) and user experience (UX). Four areas are reviewed in depth: content (maximizing use of keywords), UI/UX (improving usability), technical elements (looking at issues such as responsiveness, speed and security) and social media (increasing engagement).

Since early 2019, the ecomConnect team has carried out digital audit reviews on close to 150 small businesses across several emerging countries, including Bangladesh, Ghana, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia, Uganda, and Viet Nam. Each audit is followed by an in-depth one-on-one coaching session to review the company’s digital audit report.

These tailored sessions give key recommendations and next steps to improve the firm’s online presence. Small businesses, ranging from the information technology (IT) and tourism sectors to online retailers, were subsequently able to improve their websites, social media accounts and overall visibility on search engines.

Eclectic Chic says: “Since we last spoke in February 2020, I have made many changes to the site, and I am pleased to share we have had an increase in online traffic and sales in spite of the pandemic.”

Another business called Chap Chap adds: “[The audit] was of utmost value as we were able to get information and recommendations well beyond the scope of our knowledge.”

To scale the approach, the ecomConnect team went one step further thanks to the International Trade Centre’s SheTrades Commonwealth project. Twenty-four women-owned IT companies were trained on search engine optimization (SEO) and digital marketing as well as on completing digital audits themselves.

Following the training, the IT businesses were matched with local companies to immediately apply their learning. Follow-up training in productization ensured the businesses were ready to commercialize this new service. Through this activity, 11 IT businesses were able to generate new sales and become more resilient in the face of the COVID-19 crisis.

Moreover, they are working locally and independently auditing small businesses in Bangladesh, Kenya and Nigeria which significantly strengthens their ability to improve their visibility online - a win-win situation.

Ommo Clark, from iBez notes: “Before I did the first training in January 2020 in Lagos, I had an incorrect understanding of both digital marketing and SEO, but the training helped correct my understanding and just really set me on a new path. It’s become one of the main features of my business. Since then I have done several training events and hands-on SEO on a few company websites and received glowing reviews. So the training has really been very useful and worthwhile.”

Scaling ITC’s interventions and reinforcing the e-commerce ecosystem are key steps in ensuring that more businesses from developing and least developed countries can actively engage in international trade through online channels. We are one step further with these activities and will continue to fine tune and improve our approach to boost the visibility and sales of as many businesses as possible.

For more information, visit: ecomConnect