By Daniel Hunter

British online small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are planning to increase their use of online marketplace sites, such as eBay and Amazon Marketplace, for growth in 2015, according to Royal Mail.

Royal Mail’s annual tracker study into the expectations and challenges facing UK SME online retailers, revealed the sector is in positive mood for the year ahead with seven in ten businesses expecting sales to increase.

The optimism for growth — which is up 9% - is despite 76% of SME online retailers saying competition is more intense than a year ago.

The study found that 63% of UK SME online retailers are planning to increase the number of channels they trade through in 2015 to grow sales. One in four (24%) e-retailers plan to start using online marketplaces to increase sales. A further 21% plan to open a shop and one in six (16%) are planning to take out space in a store to sell their goods.

Six in ten (58%) reported an increase in sales in 2014, up from the 49% who reported growth in 2013.

The survey found that online SME retailers are increasingly recognising the importance of providing a good returns process for online shoppers. Three in ten (27%) said they will be simplifying the returns process in 2015 to increase customer satisfaction. The top initiative will be increasing the range of goods but pricing more competitively dropped down the rankings to third place.

Nick Landon, Managing Director of Royal Mail Parcels, said: “Royal Mail’s annual tracker study of UK SME online retailers shows that there is strong optimism for growth despite increasing competition.

“UK SME online retailers are thinking carefully about how they can develop their businesses during 2015, with one in four looking to expand to online marketplaces, such as eBay and Amazon Marketplace. Simplifying the returns process for customers is also a key area of focus for many online retailers in the year ahead.”

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