E-Commerce: Exporting Swiss companies benefit from a good reputation

Millions of people shop online every day. The e-commerce market is growing and with it the prospects for Swiss SMEs. Carlo Terreni, General Director and board member of the NetComm Suisse association, explains the opportunities and challenges in e-commerce and why Swiss providers should take advantage of them.

Carlo Terreni, General Director NetComm Suisse: "There are more opportunities than threats in e-commerce."
Carlo Terreni, General Director NetComm Suisse: "There are more opportunities than threats in e-commerce."

Carlo Terreni, what are the opportunities for exporting Swiss SMEs in e-commerce?
There are many opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises in Switzerland. In fact, on the national e-commerce market, there are 4.8 million people shopping online every year, spending an average of 2,400 Swiss francs per person. Compared to 2015, in 2016 there was a growth of 20 percent which represents a unique opportunity. We also have the opportunity to cross borders and reach an international market. Taking Europe as an example, there were over 290 million people shopping online every day, with a growth of 13 percent during the last year. We conducted an interesting study with Switzerland Global Enterprise (S-GE) and we discovered that there are 26 million people in Europe who are Swiss online promoters. These people would recommend to a friend or relative to shop from Swiss merchants because of several reasons such as security throughout transactions, safety and the reliability of the Swiss shipping system. E-commerce also works the other way - SMEs are able to access to services and products from all over the world. Overall, there is a great opportunity in both directions: selling nationally and internationally and sourcing from abroad.

Editor's note: The study “The Swiss e-commerce factor in international sales and deliveries” is free of charge for S-GE members. To order the study, please contact Not yet a member of S-GE? Join now

What are the challenges for Swiss SMEs in e-commerce?
E-commerce creates many challenges for SMEs, first of all because we face international competition. The major problem which I see among SMEs is their ability to understand what e-commerce is. Secondly, there is a gap of skills and competencies among many of the companies, as they have difficulty finding digitally skilled employees. Third, there is the issue regarding the trustworthiness because there is a cultural fear in dealing with international customers via internet. It is quite easy – from a cultural point of view – to sell to other Swiss people as there is a "Swiss secure factor" which we should not underestimate. For the national market, an international outlook is required to overcome cultural limitations and of course, in my opinion, there are many more opportunities than threats in e-commerce.

Are Swiss providers more trustworthy than providers from abroad?
When you ask people why they do not shop online, the answer is always about trust. As said before, what we have – and this is unique in the world – is the "Swiss secure factor". It means that if you ask people from other countries what they think about Swiss merchants, they trust in their companies, they believe that their personal data will be managed and stored properly and that there will be secure payment transactions. They also are aware that products and services will be delivered on time. This is something that is very much related to Switzerland as a brand and is something we need to leverage on. That’s also the reason why we are working to create the “Swiss secure shop” trust mark which enables SMEs to declare and certify that they are Swiss, safe, secure and reliable.

Do Swiss SMEs have to use e-commerce?
Thinking about investing in e-commerce is not easy. Since it is a potential market there must be a balance between the risk you take in setting up e-commerce projects and genuine opportunity to be found on the world market. My first suggestion would be to try to develop skills and dedicate time to understand what it means to set up an e-commerce project. E-commerce is a great opportunity, but at the same time you need to work with partners that help you to take advantage of this opportunity. It is very important that you gain experience in order to understand how to select these partners. Unfortunately, e-commerce is not a cheap investment, which is another reason to have a proper business plan before starting to invest in your new channel. To understand how to develop the right e-commerce project and which partners are the best solutions providers, you can participate in trainings offered by Switzerland Global Enterprise, universities or NetComm Suisse. 

About Carlo Terreni

Carlo Terreni is the General Director and board member of the NetComm Suisse association. Since August 2012, he has been head of the NetComm Suisse Observatory, and he works with passion and determination to help decision-makers to exploit the potential of the Swiss and European online market.

About NetComm Suisse

The NetComm Suisse Association works to harness the voices of the wider e-commerce community in Switzerland, bridging the gap between merchants and digital service providers, and advancing an agenda for national and global growth and success. It aims to assist both established and prospective e-commerce merchants in networking and growing, and to learn from and gain access to the very best services, training and advice available.