Fuelled by restrictions imposed on communities to control the spread of Covid-19, Amazon reported revenues of $100bn during the first quarter of 2021. Only Apple, Exxon Mobil, and Walmart achieve comparable sales values. And Amazon is not just a retailer. Its cloud computing business, which powers Netflix and Mcdonalds’ online operations amongst others, grew 32% over the same period.
We conducted research of our own during the various periods of lockdown and identified that Amazon was the sixth most popular website in Barbados and the fifth in Trinidad and Tobago. Given that the top five are all search engines and social media sites, it says a great deal about the growth in demand for online retail on our islands. The site is visited more often than news pages and Netflix; such is the demand for online retail.
Online Retail in the Caribbean
Indeed, demand for online shopping has grown significantly across the Caribbean islands in the past 5 years. Research from 2018 shows that $1.2 billion USD was spent 2018 on credit card transactions. While some have raised concerns about leakage from the local economy, it is clear that online shopping is increasingly important for consumers. This opens up opportunities for local entrepreneurs to develop and grow their own ecommerce businesses – and this is great news when it comes to retaining money in the local economy and attracting new revenues from overseas.
There are many ways to quickly build new websites and ecommerce infrastructure for would-be retailers to start to gain a foothold in this exciting space. With research showing that younger audiences prefer to buy most products and services online, there is plenty of room for growth in this market, even if Amazon does, at first glance, appear to dominate the industry. In fact, the Amazon marketplace allows anyone to trade through their platform and this also creates new opportunities for business development.
The Amazon Opportunity
In fact, Amazon offers the opportunity to develop online retail businesses for anyone – from small traders and people looking for a side-hustle to complement their income, to big firms seeking fast market growth. CONCACAF – the governing body for soccer in North and Central America and the Caribbean – has recently signed a commercial partnership with Amazon to sell official merchandise across the Concacaf region, Europe, and Japan. This provides the organisation with access to a global marketplace, reaching fans around the world.
Gaps In the Market
And of course, there are opportunities to develop online retail to address the islands’ biggest export opportunity – tourism. With growing demand from emerging economies like China and India, there are gaps in the market to create new online travel retail, as well as selling products online which are not currently easily accessible.
There are many in the Caribbean predicting significant opportunities for online retail growth.
A recent report noted that no one wants to really purchase from a sterile corporate business, and so the growth of locally owned online retail would provide an exciting opportunity for local entrepreneurs and local and international consumers alike!
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