Trends and Data

Online and On Target: Optimism Levels High for Australia's Online Business Community

Press Release

  • eBay launches the ‘The Opportunity Economy’ study to measure optimism levels amongst small to medium sized digital businesses
  • Research results indicate that Australia’s small digitally savvy businesses are feeling more optimistic about their prospects than some Commonwealth counterparts
  • Exporting to existing and new emerging markets seen as key growth driver for 2017


A major new study that monitors the sentiment of online small to medium businesses reveals optimism levels are high despite concerns over the domestic economy, property costs and government bureaucracy.

Small and medium businesses make up the vast majority (up to 99 per cent[1]) of Australian businesses and contribute around 40 per cent[2]of the country’s GDP, but in recent studies have revealed a generally pessimistic outlook when it comes to the future.

The Opportunity Economy national study of over 700 Small to Medium e-Businesses (or SMeBs) has found a more positive outlook with 64 per cent of them feeling optimistic for the next year with two thirds (66 per cent) forecasting overall sales increases in the next 12 months. 

The Rise & Reach of the Digital Dollar:

One third (32 per cent) of Australian small and medium sized businesses (approximately 660,000) are SMeBs: organisations with fewer than 200 employees which use eCommerce to receive orders for their products and/or services online[3].

These Australian businesses are confident about the contribution of digital channels to their bottom-line with two thirds (66 per cent) of SMeBs forecasting an overall sales increase in the next year. Expectations for sales growth are highest for online channels (66 per cent anticipate growth) but are also strong for mobile with half of all respondents expecting increasing sales via this channel.

Tim MacKinnon, ‎Senior Director, Retailer Growth at eBay said: “Australian online businesses are optimistic because they’re seeing the ways that technology can help them move faster and seize global opportunities.” 

The Australian Powerhouse vs. The World

Optimism amongst Australian SMeBs is notably higher than their Commonwealth counterparts with research this year from a UK study revealing that less than half of UK SMeBs (49 per cent) were optimistic about their business prospects for the year ahead.

Australia’s strong connections to the rest of the world are setting it apart as an e-
eBs utilising eBay’s global footprint.

SMeBs report exporting to customers across 15 global regions with the UK and North America being the two biggest trading partners (28 per cent of SMeBs have customers in these two countries).

Other notable trading partners include China (15 per cent of SMeBs have customers here), India (14 per cent) and Japan (10 per cent). Reflecting this, a third (38 per cent) of SMeBs agreed that the China FTA improves their export prospects.

“We’ve seen a lot of negative talk over the years about Australian businesses being slow to evolve at the same rate as the connected consumer, but today we are seeing businesses embracing change at pace and in many cases we are actually further advanced than our global counterparts.

The Internet and mobile channels have broken down barriers to trade and are helping to inject extra cash into the Australian economy. This is especially true for regionally based sellers where almost a quarter report that more than 40% of their sales are coming from customers overseas,” said MacKinnon

Paul Nieuwenhuys, owner of eBay store Hooked Online: “Over the past few years we’ve grown Hooked Online from a few hobby related sales to one of the most popular fishing and tackle destinations in Australia. As we approach the end of 2016, we’re feeling more confident than ever that we can continue that growth into the new year and beyond.”


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For more information or a copy of the Opportunity Economy Study, please contact:

Megan English – eBay
0418 447 040


Sophie Matovina - Pulse Communications


Notes to editors:

About the ‘Opportunity Economy’ study: Data was gathered from 720 small and medium sized business (i.e. SMBs with <200 employees) that use an eCommerce platform (n=639) or are planning to do so (81) between August 1 and August 10 2016. Data was collected via online survey from two sources: (1) a sample of eBay small business sellers (n=402); and (2) a sample of SMBs (n=318) sourced from independent panel provider The ORU.

Sample quotas were set, and data weighted, for industry and business size, in accordance with ABS business demography estimates, to ensure representativeness of findings.

Regional findings: We also have statistics relating to specific states, territories and regions across Australia. Please contact the eBay press office (details below) if you are interested in finding out more



[1] Australian Bureau of Statistics 2016 

[2] Australian Government Review 2016

[3] (1) ABS (2016) Counts of Australian Businesses, including Entries and Exits, Jun 2011 to Jun 2015; and (2) ABS (2015) Business Use of Information Technology, 2013-14.