What is an electronic trade opportunity (ETO)?

An ETO, much like the name suggests, is a record of an offer to sell, buy or to do business (i.e. an opportunity to trade), that has been stored in an electronic database that is normally made available online (i.e. over the web). Potential business partners can then browse or search through and respond to these ETOs. In other words, it is a way of facilitating trade between geographically dispersed companies. The term ‘ETO’ was probably first used by the United Nations in the development of the UNCTAD ETO system – see below.

The WTPF ETO system

Perhaps the best example of an ETO system is the one run by the World Trade Point Federation (WTPF). The WTPF grew out of an innovative programme of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) which aimed to help SMEs trade with one another globally. The WTPF has strived to enhance this programme by establishing Trade Points (trade promotion offices) in more than 70 countries that try to help SMEs in their local areas of operation. One of the services they offer is to enable any firm to lodge (or post) an ETO which is then publish on the WTPF site for other companies around the world to see. Any company interested in a particular ETO can respond to the original firm that posted the ETO expressing their interest in doing business.

The WTPF system is free-of-charge, although users do have to register to use the system. However, registering on the system has several advantages associated with it such as access to the Trade Alert System which informs you about ETOs matching your specific needs and interests.

Using this system, exporters can post offers to buy and sell goods, search for trading opportunities and perform trade leads matching. Some of the facilities/benefits of the Trade Point ETO system include:

  • Daily global advertising for your company through the listing of your company profile and contact data on a global portal, visited by a wide range of potential customers
  • Hot link to your company’s website
  • Availability of an advanced search engine on the portal allowing easy identification of your company by potential customers
  • Association with a world-wide trade lead network covering over 70 countries

Click here to learn more about the WTPF.

What are the benefits of using ETO systems?

As an exporter, the main benefits of using an ETO system are:

  • Increasing your marketing reach – your products will be seen by tens of thousands of potential customers from around the world.
  • ETO systems are also ideal for disposing of excess, end-of-line or otherwise unwanted goods – But you need to ensure that you inform buyers of the status of your goods.
  • You can market your products 24/7 – The ETO system is always accessible to potential customers, even if you are sleeping.
  • The cost is normally quite low – You are not likely to get information about your products out to a global audience this cheaply, especially if you are doing the marketing and selling yourself.
  • ETO systems facilitate immediate and easy response by potential buyers – The buyer can visit your website or fire off an enquiry to you which you can respond to. Not all enquiries lead to sales, naturally; but the ease of use of ETO systems does increase the potential for generating business.
  • Pre-qualified buyers – Some ETO systems require buyers to indicate what they products they are interested in and in so doing, the system is able to better match offers to buyers.
  • ETO systems can be used to gather market intelligence – Just by browsing though ETO systems, you can see what similar products to your own are available for sale and from where. Sometimes, prices may even be indicated on the system, thereby enabling you to make more informed decisions about the products you export and the pricing thereof.

Are there any other ETO systems?

Yes, actually, there quite a few such systems available. But before we tell you more, it is important that you understand some of the terminology used. While the UN started out with the term ‘electronic trade opportunity’ (or ETO) system, it has become more common to refer to these trading systems as ‘trading hubs’ or ‘electronic marketplaces’ or ‘trade (enquiry) bulletin boards’ or even ‘market exchanges’ (other similar phrases are also sometimes used). All of these phrases essentially still refer to an electronic environment (usually a database system) where buyers (importers) and sellers (exporters) can post a notice of their interest in doing business (trading) with other companies.

There are many such systems available today. ExportHelp has done extensive research to identify many of these electronic marketplaces. Click here to access our list of electronic marketplaces.