E-commerce is considered an effective measure helping businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to reduce direct transaction costs during times of economic downturn, according to the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

A recent survey from the ministry showed investment costs for e-commerce accounted for roughly 5 percent of a company's total investment capital, but could increase a firm's turnover by an average of 33 percent.

Surveyed companies said turnover gained through e-commerce transactions have risen significantly during recent years and helped them access foreign customers, build their image, cut costs and increase profits.

A representative from Hanoi-based Visimex Joint Stock Co, which specialises in supplying and exporting aromatic spices, said 80 percent of his company's turnover comes from e-commerce. The company has customers from China, India, Indonesia, the Middle East, South Africa and Spain and has been a member of the Hong Kong-based e-commerce trader Alibaba.com for six years.

Thai Binh-based Dam San Textile Co said it receives orders from roughly 80 customers every month mainly from Germany, the US, France and China thanks to their presence on Alibaba.com.

As online trading has proven to be effective, the ministry recommended that in stead of spending money on establishing direct distribution networks or showrooms, SMEs should invest in building websites or join international e-commerce floors such as Alibaba.com, eBay.vn or Amazon.com.

It said that it is often difficult for SME's to access foreign markets directly due to restricted capital sources and limited export experience, however it is easy for them to take part in online export channels, which are popular in the US and dozens of countries world-wide.

Participating in e-commerce to boost exports is an indispensable trend as importers in large markets such as the US and EU often choose the e-commerce transaction floors of Alibaba.com, eBay.vn or Amazon.com to buy products. International businesses in Fortune 500 such as IKEA, Walmart, Toshiba, Delphi and Saferoad also use e-commerce floors to organise offline meetings and buy products from reliable suppliers, the ministry said./.