Helping small businesses in Southeast Asia push digital trade frontiers

The Digital Export Enablement Programme for ASEAN enables small businesses to identify and harness new e-commerce opportunities

Trading online offers growing opportunities, but also requires adapting your business model. That means understanding trade flows across markets and identifying promising channels. But you also need digital marketing skills to succeed in online marketplaces, website sales, or social media channels.

According to a study by Google and the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), 60% of small businesses in Southeast Asia want to move into new markets. But 75% said they don’t have the market analysis and digital marketing skills to do. They indicated they would be keen to enhance those skills.

In response, ICC, Google, ITC and the World Intellectual Property Organization came together to pilot the Digital Export Enablement Programme (DEEP) for ASEAN businesses. The aim was to strengthen the market analysis and digital marketing skills of 1,000 small businesses. The hybrid programme brings together self-paced online courses, as well as hybrid workshops.

Topics covered include identifying and comparing opportunities in new markets using tools like Trade Map, Export Potential Map, Global Trade Helpdesk and Market Finder. The programme also introduces ICC Incoterms. This helps firms prepare digital audit and digital marketing plans across relevant digital channels, while guiding them on intellectual property right protection and branding considerations. To help put their strategies into action, DEEP also offered personalized coaching for the most diligent firms.

More than 1,300 firms signed up, with about 53% led by women. They came from Brunei, Cambodia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Laos, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and Singapore. Workshops across these countries also benefited from strong support from local counterparts, including the partnerships with ITAP in Thailand, and the Vietnam E-Commerce Association, as well as support from the ICC Centre of Entrepreneurship in Indonesia.

To date, 638 firms have completed the programme and received certification. Of those, 95% reported they will make changes to their business operations.

I am amazed by firms’ gratitude for having access to these digital tools. We aspire that programmes like this one will strengthen digital literacy for every Filipino, fostering a future where technology is more accessible and empowering for all. The program instilled a sense of hope and pride, affirming participants capability to scale internationally.

Miguel Aliño Lopez

DEEP Trainer for the Philippines

Utilizing the knowledge on market analysis, digital marketing, branding, and IP protection, gained during the DEEP training, we’ve successfully identified our target market and assessed the potential of our products within that specific segment. This analysis also plays a crucial role in shaping our branding strategies, helping us find niches and define our Unique Selling Proposition. Applying the acquired knowledge from the training, we’ve successfully used tools like Google Trend, Google Market Finders, and TradeMap. These tools help us anticipate upcoming trends and make informed decisions. In practical terms, both Awen Global and City Coin Chem Sdn Bhd, with their distinct focuses on sourcing and trading or customization and manufacturing, respectively, have benefited. Leveraging the insights gained, our R&D team developed new products, expanding our OEM customers’ range and boosting their online sales.

Carmen Chooi

DEEP training participant from Malaysia


Awen Global is a one-stop sourcing connection direct from manufacturing factories with lowest MOQ for imports & exports, specializing in FMCG; dedicated to supporting local SMEs, particularly women entrepreneurs, by promoting Malaysian brands and facilitating expansion into overseas markets.

CityCoin Chem, is a homecare cleaning products manufacturer under the ‘LOVAS’ brand, focusing on diverse cleaning products with a commitment to rigorous research and testing for product safety and skin-friendliness.

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