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The pandemic has forced small businesses – from local yoga studios to condiment dressing sellers – to find new ways to sustain themselves when their storefronts are closed. E-commerce platforms and online marketplaces provide the most promising alternative, and Internet Association (IA) hosted two panels on October 15 to discuss how online marketplaces and e-commerce platforms are helping small businesses around the country thrive during the pandemic. Jon Berroya, IA’s Interim President and CEO, led two panels:

The first panel featured:

Vivie Jasper

Founder and CEO of BRIZO Everything Dressing

The second panel featured:

Mike Dabbs

Senior Director of Americas Government Relations at eBay

Katharine Lister

Director of Public Policy, Americas at Amazon

John Walsh

Head of Merchant Marketing at Groupon

The event also included opening remarks from the Founders and Co-Chairs of the Congressional E-commerce Caucus:

Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-CA)

Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-KY)

How Are Online Marketplaces Helping Small Businesses During The Pandemic?

E-commerce sites and online marketplaces have been vital during the pandemic by providing an easy, and crucial, way for small businesses to continue serving their customers. In opening video remarks, Reps. Aguilar and Guthrie both emphasized that e-commerce platforms and online marketplaces are critical to their districts’ small businesses remaining resilient during the pandemic. 

In addition to giving our small businesses a lifeline, the e-commerce industry is making it easier than ever to bring additional resources and sources of income by starting their own businesses and online storefronts.

Rep. Aguilar 

Online marketplaces have continued to grow over the last few months as more small businesses move online, and Rep. Guthrie praised those marketplaces as “[proven] to be great avenues for many businesses to sell products and services online.”

After opening remarks, Vivie Jasper shared her story of turning to online marketplaces to help her business thrive during the pandemic. In March, she had to figure out how to reach her customers without having her dressings on shelves, so she quickly moved online. Jasper said it was “truly a blessing we were able to maintain at least our sales and continue to sell our product.” And she praised online marketplaces for her success during this period. 

If it wasn’t for Amazon, I don’t even know if I’d be in front of this camera today talking to you.

Vivie Jasper, Founder and CEO of BRIZO Everything Dressing

In the second panel, the industry experts noted Jasper’s personal story is part of a broader recognition of the importance of online marketplaces in supporting small businesses. 

John Walsh, Head of Merchant Marketing at Groupon, noted that many of its merchants were moving online for the first time. Although Groupon is an e-commerce site, Walsh pointed out that “having businesses offer virtual services was a little bit new for us. And what we’ve seen is that a lot of those merchants have found good success with it, and it actually expands their scale and reach.” Groupon saw its merchants needed an online option and worked to provide businesses who were new to selling online with options to stay in business during the pandemic and to continue to have those options in a post-pandemic world.

Katharine Lister, Director of Public Policy for Americas at Amazon, joined in and detailed the large success Amazon third-party sellers have seen. “Most of [the third-party sellers] are small and medium-sized businesses. They just surpassed $3.5 billion in sales during Prime Day, which is a 60 percent increase from what they saw last year.” Lister added that Amazon is working to create thousands of success stories like Jasper’s.

How Will Online Marketplaces Help Post-Pandemic?

The conversation then moved to what happens in a post-pandemic world, and all the panelists agreed that the reach online marketplaces and e-commerce platforms give to small businesses will be important to maintain. E-commerce platforms, particularly during the pandemic, have helped small businesses across the country, not just in urban areas.

E-commerce really isn’t concentrated in major metropolitan areas or West coast and East coast. We have, proportionally, the same number of small businesses selling on the platform in South Dakota as we do in California.

Mike Dabbs, Senior Director of Americas Government Relations at eBay

During the pandemic, eBay, Etsy, Amazon, and other online marketplaces are showing small businesses they don’t have to choose between having a physical storefront or being solely online. Instead, businesses can have the best of both worlds, accessing their local community, and finding customers around the country. And it’s all thanks to e-commerce platforms and online marketplaces.