How SMBs Could Edge Out eCommerce Giants This Holiday Season

With the holiday shopping season set to kick into high gear with Amazon Prime Day on Oct. 13-14, online merchants in America and beyond are preparing for the earliest, most aggressive selling season ever.

Kenny Tsang, managing director at cross-border payments service provider PingPong, told Karen Webster that merchants must be ready — and must execute well.

“Amazon Prime Day typically happens around the summertime when things are a little bit slower, but now it's all happening within one quarter,” said Tsang, whose firm serves more than 750,000 customers around the globe.

Tsang said that with holiday shopping pulled forward, the biggest issue many sellers will face is how to manage their inventory.

“There are a lot of questions about whether some sellers will be able to take advantage of Prime Day — it being so close to the traditional Black Friday/Cyber Monday — without depleting their stock,” he noted.

Tsang added that while supply chains have pretty much bounced back to normal despite the pandemic, sellers will need good cash flow. That way, they can have products available for sale in mid-October, then use proceeds from those early sales to purchase new inventory for the rest of the season.

With more and more commerce going online, he said, it will also be increasingly important for sellers to process a higher number of returns and chargebacks and to quickly settle customer disputes.

No Turning Back On Digital

Tsang said the shift to digital is accelerating, and it’s unlikely consumers’ shopping habits will turn back to pre-pandemic norms in the future. After all, online sales no longer rely as much on younger shoppers who are more comfortable with the technology.

He said “the older generation that couldn't [use technology] or is not willing to shop in stores is also adopting digital” — one of the main reasons the adoption of eCommerce has accelerated so much this year.

But different verticals are seeing different results, Tsang noted. For instance, luggage sales are (unsurprisingly) weaker than normal, but demand for home fitness equipment, health supplements and vitamins is way up.

Time To Go Global

Tsang said that while Black Friday sales and other post-Thanksgiving shopping surges have historically been U.S.-centric events, that’s no longer the case because global sellers and fierce competition have blurred national boundaries.

He also noted that since Amazon “makes it so easy to expand internationally,” this is a great time for U.S. sellers to seek toeholds outside of America, taking advantage of an opportunity to boost business in markets with less competition.

But while cross-border barriers have come down, brand-building is still challenging.

“Consumer trends and their shopping habits are driven very heavily by social media,” Tsang said. “So, one of the things we tell our sellers is that in this world that's ever-changing, it's really important to keep up-to-date with things that are happening.”

Small And Nimble > Big And Slow

While many new merchants, especially small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) might feel outgunned competing online against some of the largest, most well-capitalized retailers on Earth, Tsang said that’s not the case for PingPong.

In fact, he said, the winning formula is often just the opposite. He noted that the most successful eCommerce merchants rely on “a combination of being flexible enough to identify top-selling products that would do well, and [being] flexible enough to move fast and take advantage of some of the top-selling categories.”

That need for nimbleness actually works in SMBs’ favor.

“Some of the brands and the larger companies that don't have the flexibility of adapting quickly [are] the ones that are losing out on their sales,” Tsang said.

Beside the need for speed, he said it’s also very important for digital sellers to diversify and to recognize that they can’t rely solely on their traditional core products.

Diversifying Distribution

Tsang also recommended diversifying distribution channels. Amazon might be the biggest channel, but many of PingPong’s customers also use other outlets like Google Shopping, Walmart or Shopify.

“A lot of the merchants we speak to are willing to try a lot of different channels” and see where the best fit is for different types of products, he said.

Successful sellers who want to take their business to the next level and remain competitive in an increasingly digital environment are on board with such moves.

“We see more sellers adopting an omnichannel approach,” Tsang noted.



New forms of alternative credit and point-of-sale (POS) lending options like ‘buy now, pay later’ (BNPL) leverage the growing influence of payments choice on customer loyalty. Nearly 60 percent of consumers say such digital options now influence where and how they shop—especially touchless payments and robust, well-crafted ecommerce checkouts—so, merchants have a clear mandate: understand what has changed and adjust accordingly. Join PYMNTS CEO Karen Webster together with PayPal’s Greg Lisiewski, BigCommerce’s Mark Rosales, and Adore Me’s Camille Kress as they spotlight key findings from the new PYMNTS-PayPal study, “How We Shop” and map out faster, better pathways to a stronger recovery.