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SMEs still experiencing digital lag: report

Four fifths of local SMEs still don’t have a formal digital business strategy, according to a new Sensis report, which means many are missing out on a raft of opportunities presented by online-savvy customers.

The annual Sensis e-Business Report found a range of digital activities have hit the mainstream in Australia, with strong usage noted beyond the youth market. According to report author Christena Singh, searching the web using a mobile, connecting with friends through social media and purchasing over the internet had become part of everyday life for many Australians.

“However, the report shows less than one in five Australian small businesses have a formal digital business strategy.”

Of those businesses with a digital plan, 90 percent focus on internet and website components (89 percent), followed by mobile (54 percent) and social media (53 percent) components.

“Over the last year, businesses have started to take a broader approach, and we have seen more businesses incorporate mobile and social media strategies into their digital plan,” Singh added.

Despite the lack of a dedicated digital plan, small business website ownership rose over the last 12 months, with two thirds of small businesses now having a site.

“However, the rate of small businesses selling online is not mirroring the rate of consumers who are purchasing online,” Singh said, adding that just 59 percent of SMEs currently take online orders – a rise of just one percent over the last year.

Social media presence still lags

Just two in 10 small businesses reported having a social media presence, up from one in 10 last year. Facebook was found to be the most commonly used social media tool, followed by Twitter, LinkedIn, a blog and YouTube.

Over half of businesses that use social media believe it has a positive impact on business, with 48 percent saying in had no impact.

“The proportion of small businesses with a social networking presence is low when you consider how pervasive it has become amongst Australians,” Singh said.

In stark comparison, 59 percent of Australians now use social networking, with strong usage now seen in the 30-39 (82 percent), 40-49 (47 percent) and 50-64 (45 per cent) agegroups.

Consumer online spend on the rise

Two-thirds of local consumers said they now make online purchases, with 40 percent boosting their online expenditure over the last year.

“Of course with the high Australian dollar, some of this expenditure is going to overseas sites, with consumers indicting that 29 percent of their online purchases are made with overseas businesses, but the majority is being spent with local businesses,” Singh said.

Lorna Brett

Lorna Brett

Lorna was Dynamic Business’ Social Web Editor in 2011/12. She’s a social media obsessed journalist, who has a passion for small business. Outside the 9 to 5, you’re likely to find her trawling the web for online bargains, perfecting her amateur photography skills or enjoying one too many cappucinos. You can follow her on <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/dynamicbusiness">Twitter @DynamicBusiness</a>

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