The Great British brands campaign highlights businesses that sell internationally.

Hundreds of thousands of businesses have accessed the Amazon Small Business Accelerator since it was launched in 2020 as a direct response to the impact of the pandemic on the start-up and small business community. Now, global economic headwinds and the cost-of-living crisis mean small businesses continue to face challenges.

Research supported by Amazon this year shows that 71% of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have seen their margins decrease in the six months up to September 2023, but only 32% say they will seek out support and advice.

In recent months Amazon has partnered with organisations like the British Chambers of Commerce, Small Business Britain, Be The Business and Planet Mark to find out more about the challenges facing small businesses and reveal the best ways that larger businesses, policymakers, industry leaders and others can offer support.

Here are the five key ways to help small businesses thrive despite economic headwinds.

Make access to new markets easier for small businesses

Research conducted by Small Business Britain in collaboration with the Amazon Small Business Accelerator showed that 38% of small businesses say their number one issue during this period is cash flow, with 35% saying suppressed customer demand.

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To combat these issues, 38% of small businesses have explored expanding into new markets to broaden their scope of opportunity.

However, a series of roundtables with small businesses, jointly hosted by the British Chambers of Commerce and the Accelerator revealed that small businesses trading in the EU and beyond suffer challenges such as limited capacity to deal with customs declarations, import VAT, marketing, and regulatory compliance processes which differ from country to country.

Roundtable participants say taking a tailored approach to entering each new market is critical, but to do this they need support for their brand positioning, marketing, and consumer spending insights in their target country.

Greater Awareness of sources of external advice and support

Although expanding into new markets is one of the ways small businesses can tackle suppressed customer demand, few seek the available support to do so.

When asked about the sources of e-commerce export advice available, roundtable participants mentioned the government’s Department for Business and Trade’s advice on market access and usage of trade preferences, as well as support provided by Amazon via its global stores.

However, the research carried out in the Small Business Britain report showed that 32% of small businesses are not reaching out for support at all.

Mentoring, such as that provided by the Amazon Small Business Accelerator have proven to be instrumental in changing business opportunities and outlook, and small businesses should be aware of the support currently available.

Greater collaboration to help the adoption of new technologies

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Helping small businesses take full advantage of new technologies, from e-commerce to AI, social media marketing and more, is vital in today’s world, but this task requires the support of the entire UK business community.

Greater collaboration across industry and government is imperative, with trade missions, mentoring, and knowledge-sharing all important tools in helping small businesses thrive.

According to the Be The Business White Paper, supported by the Amazon Small Business Accelerator, the government should scale up its collaboration with industry and support higher levels of technology adoption.

Meanwhile, larger companies should share knowledge and best practice with small businesses on how they use and embed technology to drive productivity. Earlier this year, Amazon launched a new Innovation Accelerator to bring small businesses from Greater Manchester into a state-of-the-art robotics centre in Bolton to see first-hand how Amazon innovates. The scheme will also expand into the West Midlands to reach even more businesses.

Help small businesses prioritise sustainability

Placing a focus on sustainability isn’t just good for the planet, it’s also good for business.

Here's why sustainability has become key to doing business.

That’s why Amazon partnered with leading sustainability certification firm Planet Mark to better support small businesses in their transition to net-zero.

The white paper highlighted a host of ways to help small businesses in that journey, including giving them a voice in the development of net-zero policies which impacts their supply chains; creating clear timelines for measuring their emissions; and creating financial incentives to help businesses plan ahead and accelerate their deployment of low-carbon solutions.

Support diversity equity and inclusion, and social mobility goals

Creating more opportunities for people of all backgrounds promotes greater equity across the UK, but it also increases productivity throughout the workforce and allows our best talent to thrive.

Promoting social mobility also requires businesses to make themselves more accessible, and in turn expand their reach and impact across the whole of society.

According to Small Business Britain’s insights report, helping SMEs to do this through adopting different sales and marketing channels and targeting marginalised groups could significantly broaden their customer base and change their outlook.

Previously, Amazon partnered with The Bridge Group to highlight the ways in which the retail industry and logistics sector can bring down barriers to entry.

Read more about how Amazon empowers small businesses throughout the UK.