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Small businesses are going offline amid fears of hacking with the number of businesses hosting their own website down from 61 per cent to 52 per cent, according to the 2017 Sensis eBusiness Report.

The survey of more than 1000 small and medium businesses found that 81 per cent of business owners were worried about hacking, up from 69 per cent previously.

Hacking fears drive businesses offline
Alice Mentiplay

Sensis digital manager, Alice Mentiplay said: “Nine in 10 medium sized businesses have a website but among small businesses the number dropped 10 points this year and now sits at 50 per cent.  Across the board, only six per cent of businesses intend on adding a site this year, indicating that growth has stalled.”

Despite website ownership dropping, businesses with another form of internet presence has soared from 28 per cent to 80 per cent in the past 12 months.

“Of those without a website, 70 per cent are listed in an online directory (up from 19 per cent) and 54 per cent have a social media presence (also up from 19 per cent).”

Mrs Mentiplay said hacking wasn’t a reason to avoid hosting a website or using e-commerce.  “Business owners can take some very simple steps to protect their site and still enjoy the benefits of selling products online,” she said.


Steps to avoid website hacking include:

  • Ensure you have a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate on your site. This will encrypt all communications between a web browser and your server. A site is secure if its address begins with HTTPS rather than HTTP.
  • Safeguard your payment gateway by ensuring your provider is PCI-DSS compliant. PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry – Data Security Standards) ensure that your customers’ credit card information is encrypted and secure. By using a PCI-DSS payment provider there’s no need to store credit card information on your site.

“Generally, hackers want to steal your customers’ credit card information. So it’s important to take precautions, but by following these simple tips business owners should feel confident that their website is safe and there is no risk to them or their customers,” said Mrs Mentiplay.

While it is important for business owners to establish an online presence, the survey found that three times as many consumers still preferred shopping in a physical shop rather than an online store.

“When they do go online, almost half of consumers said their main concern was getting the best deal, well ahead of supporting local brands or finding the fastest delivery times.

“With Amazon on its way to Australia, businesses will need to be competitive in their online offering, or offer unique products.”

She also said that with more consumers using smartphones (79 per cent) to access the internet, it was important for business owners to update their sites to ensure they are mobile friendly.

“Businesses should invest in mobile optimised websites to reflect customer preferences, consider adding an e-commerce function and improve their search engine optimisation.”

“We are seeing a shift in marketing tactics as small and medium businesses become increasingly digitally savvy and choose to spend more of their marketing budget online.

“It’s clear from this year’s report that the online landscape is moving quickly. Only 16% of businesses have a digital strategy. This should be the first place to start so that businesses don’t end up wasting money trying to do everything at once, when they may only need a few of the marketing tools at their disposal,” said Mrs Mentiplay.

Other key findings from the 2017 Sensis eBusiness Report are:

  1. Online sales as a share of total sales continue to increase for SMBs, rising from 32% to 45% over the last four years
  2. Ninety-four percent of SMBs make the majority of their online sales to customers in Australia, with more than two thirds of SMBs primarily selling to customers in their local area (68%)
  3. Almost a quarter (24%) of businesses make sales to overseas customers, with 4% specifically targeting them (up from 2%)
  4. The number of SMBs connected to the NBN has almost doubled (from 8% to 15%). This may have impacted on the rise in the number that are satisfied with their internet connection speeds (up from 65% to 72%)


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Rebecca Thacker

Rebecca Thacker

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