eBay’s 2020 U.S. Small Online Business Report: How We’re Creating Economic Opportunity

Cathy Foster, VP, Government Relations & Public Policy

In our new report, we explore how the eBay marketplace levels the playing field for Main Street businesses across America by enabling them to reach millions of shoppers worldwide.

In our increasingly global economy, small brick and mortar businesses are often at a huge disadvantage in terms of scope and reach, especially in rural areas with lower foot traffic and sprawling nearby chain stores. This inequity has only been heightened over the past several months, as independent small businesses and entrepreneurs across the United States have been faced with unprecedented and complex challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At this difficult time, we are pleased to welcome more sellers to our marketplace, helping provide broad access to global markets through our eBay platform.

To illustrate how we are helping ensure a level playing field for small businesses, especially during the pandemic, we published a new report highlighting how small businesses can create storefronts on eBay to instantly reach our 174 million shoppers worldwide — while also staying local and growing within their communities.

Our consistent mission at eBay throughout our 25-year history has been to empower people and create economic opportunity for all. This is especially important in times of uncertainty and instability. Sellers have always been at the heart of our marketplace. They are our partners through the ups and downs of the economy and we are committed to their success.

eBay enables sellers to move products across the world in ways that significantly increase their revenue streams. Our research confirms this, revealing that 96 percent of small businesses on eBay in the United States export internationally, sending goods to an average of 17 foreign countries. Additionally, nearly 60 percent of eBay entrepreneurs ship goods to customers across four or more continents.

Ruben Gallegos, an eBay seller in Celina, Texas, offers a wide lineup of sports, music and entertainment memorabilia through his store Zobie Productions. A family business rooted in his community, 35 percent of his total sales are now international, a figure enabled by ecommerce and eBay. Likewise, eBay seller Ciara Brown, owner of The Diamond Hanger, started her online business in her college bedroom and now operates out of two 3,000 sq. ft. warehouses; she now is a Top Seller who exports nearly 10 percent of her products.

This type of reach is in distinct contrast to that of traditional enterprises. In our research, we found that only one percent of these U.S. businesses export, reaching an average of only four foreign countries.

Rural areas also are facing outsized economic challenges, only heightened by the pandemic, and these places have generally suffered from more stagnant growth over the past decade when compared with larger metropolitan centers. Yet we found that small businesses in rural areas receive an opportunity boost when they partner with eBay, even during challenging times, because of the access to the global marketplace. Our report provides evidence that ecommerce can help turn the rural economic tide to one of prosperity. For example, from 2011-2017, rural counties across America experienced 13.1 percent growth in the number of eBay-enabled small businesses compared to less than 1 percent growth in the number of traditional brick and mortar businesses. Additionally, there are examples in numerous states in which rural counties faced a loss of traditional businesses, while the number of eBay-enabled small businesses grew more than 10 percent.

All of these findings are particularly significant when taken in the context of COVID-19. Research has shown that the last three U.S. economic recoveries have resulted in new business formation consolidating in larger cities and metropolitan areas, leaving rural areas behind. By providing everyone with direct access to the global economy, eBay can help ensure a more inclusive and equitable economic model for all businesses, whatever their size and wherever they are located. We are proud to offer a pathway to economic growth, as backed up by our research findings, for American small businesses in the current COVID-19 climate — and for many years to come.