Training small businesses with online e-commerce courses

7 December 2018
ITC News
The International Trade Centre’s SME Trade Academy offers online courses to train entrepreneurs on creating quality e-commerce content

The International Trade Centre’s (ITC) e-commerce team is developing more online content for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Representatives of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) around the world can now learn to create quality e-commerce content with a new online course on the ITC SME Trade Academy.

The launch of the course ‘Creating Quality E-commerce Content’ is the result of a clearly expressed need for small firms to master the art of attractive company and product listings. The course is composed of three lectures and provides an overview of the importance of having quality e-commerce content as well as how to go about generating materials that are likely to motivate potential customers. There are currently 89 participants enrolled on the course, 7 of whom have completed it.

The seemingly simple task of writing attractive descriptions is more challenging than it would seem and is a major barrier in the initial steps of small firms getting online. Small business managers are often passionate about their product, but struggle to convey the story of their business in a persuasive manner. This is even more challenging considering the linguistic and cultural barriers that separate developing countries from markets and customers in developed countries.

There are also technical issues to consider which are overlooked by inexperienced firms. Marketplaces and payment firms have strict requirements on the level of information that companies must provide online. The module considers these issues and guides business managers through the process of how to structure their content – covering both qualitative aspects and technical requirements.

The SME Trade Academy aims to complement ITC’s training and advisory services in the field. Offering multiple courses ranging from quality e-commerce content to finance for SMEs, this online platform provides SMEs with tools and practical knowledge needed to overcome barriers and obstacles that they will eventually face.

Courses are mentored online by experienced, international professionals ready to offer guidance on the course and related issues. Ultimately, these courses aim to increase ITC’s outreach, including to countries where demand for technical assistance is increasing and which may not be benefitting from ITC projects.

Initial feedback from the first round of participants has been positive. ‘This is an excellent course which very effectively sensitizes the importance of e-Commerce content. I hope that after completing this course I will be able to advise SMEs in a better way.’, according to one of the participants. Another participant says ‘I recently created my own content on eBay, and have actually managed to sell and in the process of creating other storefronts on other platforms. I must admit that the sales have not been moving at the rate that I expected on eBay and through the course I have had an aha moment that I need to work on my content immediately.’

Reaching SMEs across the world

Since its creation in 2014, the academy has developed 54 online courses in English, French, Spanish and Arabic for trade and business professionals. Currently, over 20,000 people are enrolled, of which 85% are from developing and least developed countries.

The e-commerce team trains and supports SMEs in every aspect of e-commerce, ranging from initial market research to digitizing products – for example, taking quality photos, creating barcodes or writing product descriptions. The ‘Creating Quality E-commerce Content’ course is another tool to further its reach and support.

This latest course as well as others, such as ‘Using Virtual Marketplaces for your E-commerce Initiative’, help further training in the field. They will both be used in the Foundations for Business-to-Business (B2B) E-commerce project in Qatar. The first session on ‘Using Virtual Marketplaces for your E-commerce Initiative’ attracted 87 participants, 28 of whom received certificates. A further 128 participants have already enrolled for the next session.

To complete the e-commerce suite of courses, the team is working on a ‘Focus on B2B E-commerce’ module. The course will give an overview of benefits, challenges and good practices. Other e-Commerce modules are on the drawing board and will be launched in 2019.