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Ebay sellers demand better broadband and mobile

A study of SME sellers conducted by eBay in the UK finds that many feel held back by poor broadband and mobile coverage

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that use online marketplace and auction site eBay as part of their business often feel they are being thwarted by a lack of mobile network coverage and slow broadband speeds.

The UK boasts a healthy and growing e-commerce sector, banking £573bn in sales in 2015 according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

But the study of eBay SME sellers, which was conducted by YouGov, found that most were looking to mobile to drive sales over the next 12 months, but felt that connectivity issues were holding them back.

Of those surveyed, two-thirds expected a mobile sales boost in 2016, and a third said mobile would be vital to their growth, with one in five expecting to see a top line sales increase of up to 30%.

However, 38% of those surveyed said they felt held back by insufficient 3G and 4G network coverage, while 63% proclaimed themselves dissatisfied with the state of UK broadband services.

More than half said the government was not doing enough to improve wireless and wired internet access to help SMEs in particular. A similar number wanted more to be done to improve publicly available Wi-Fi to help them realise the potential of flexible working.

Andrew Grant, managing director of Surrey-based clothing company Clara Olivia, said around 50% of his e-commerce business was now coming via mobile, so staying ahead of the curve was vital.

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“We’re building a mobile friendly business homepage to drive sales and trigger further growth,” said Grant.

“Having noticed our regular eBay customers are increasingly purchasing on their mobile phone or tablet, we’ve taken steps to recognise this trend as part of the wider businesses strategy as it is critical to the shopping experience of our consumers.”

Improving broadband provision to SMEs has become a key issue facing service providers. As many SMEs struggle to afford the costs of dedicated leased lines from the likes of BT, many small business owners still choose to spend less money on unsuitable consumer-grade products, particularly those who are less technology-savvy.

Code of practice for ISPs

In January 2016, a number of internet service providers (ISPs) signed up to a new code of practice implemented by telecoms regulator Ofcom.

Under the terms of the code, they will have to provide more accurate and reliable information on the broadband speeds their customers should be receiving, and make it easier for customers to get out of their contracts without being penalised if the service is not up to scratch.

“A dependable broadband connection is essential for almost every aspect of modern business life,” said Mike Cherry, policy director at the Federation of Small Businesses at the time.

“To plan effectively, firms need accurate information on what speeds they can expect, and how much this will vary. Business owners should be able to easily compare suppliers and exit a contract early if their communications provider does not deliver the speeds promised.”

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