Despite an increase in the use of websites, online activity among small to medium businesses has fallen, with social media interactions and other online marketing activities declining most sharply.
Online transactions, email marketing and social media use have all declined, according to MYOB’s July 2012 Business Monitor survey.
The findings revealed that less than one quarter of SMEs used search engines to promote their business- compared with almost one third of SMEs in March 2012. Social media interactions with consumers, via Facebook, YouTube and Google+, had also dwindled, as had networking on LinkedIn.
“The decline in popularity of online business activities was completely unexpected, particularly that of online marketing and social media. Many of these tools, such as a basic LinkedIn page, are free and can be used to raise the profile of a business and to communicate with customers.” said MYOB CEO Tim Reed.
However, Reed was pleased to see the rising number of SMEs with a website, which now stands at 38 percent. The most notable increase came from Queensland SMEs, with almost half now online.
“Last year, those with a business website were 53 percent more likely to experience a revenue increase. Twenty-three percent saw their revenue rise, versus 15 percent of those without one. They also said positive business changes were more likely a result of having a website than using other promotional media,” he explained.
More than one third of SMEs with a business website said it increased customer leads and 34 percent said it improved their customer interaction. The survey also found that businesses with a website were more likely to increase their variety of products and services, increase their staff, and pay their staff more.
“With Australia’s internet audience reaching 16.2 million in May 2012, it surprises me that so many business operators have not yet realised the value of having a simple website containing their contact details. Websites are a great way to attract new customers and to keep existing customers loyal, which can only have a positive effect on cashflow,” Reed said.