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Over 1/3 of SMEs miss out on digital economy benefits

24 Oct 2013

At least one third of small to medium businesses are reducing their performance potential by overlooking significant opportunities offered by the digital economy.

That is according to new research into online technology usage from MYOB, which claims less than four in 10 SMBs (38%) have a business website - up from 34% six months prior.

As a consequence, 9% of these operators also have a business social media site, and a further 14% have a social media site only, with the proportion using social media in some way for business rose to 33% - up on 21%.

MYOB claims only 18% of SMBs use cloud computing in business - also unchanged on six months prior while accounting software usage was relatively stable at 64% from 67%.

Tellingly, business operators who utilise online technologies were more likely to see a revenue rise in the 12 months to August this year.

Those with both a business website and a social media site (14%) were at least 63% more likely to see revenue rise than those who didn’t have one of these sites. This leading edge was followed by SMEs using cloud computing, who were 59% more likely to see an annual revenue rise than non-cloud users.

Business Division General Manager James Scollay says there is tremendous scope for ANZ business operators to boost their financial performance, strengthen customer acquisition and retention, enjoy work environment flexibility and improve business productivity by using online technologies.

“Businesses that use online technologies are increasingly outperforming their less tech savvy competitors,” he says.

“That’s why it’s vital for government and business leaders to work together with our business community, sharing knowledge about the benefits of embracing the online world and supporting them on their journey.

"Even the simplest insights can make the world of difference to a business.

“Half our respondents don’t have an online presence. Our research found those using a website and social media in business say these efforts produce more customer enquiries or leads and greater sales conversions.

"Those using cloud technology say it reduces IT costs, allows access to more technology and enhances their ability to work remotely.

"That’s why we encourage businesses of all shapes and sizes to make their business life easier by reading up about the benefits of implementing technologies such as a website and social media presence, online accounting software and so on. The internet has a range of forums, blogs and video tutorials on these topics.

“One third of SMEs are missing out on many benefits – a proportion that is way too high in this digital age. They are in danger of being left behind other businesses that have taken the online leap.”

Tech-savvy operators enjoy big business benefits

Further supporting the digital cause, SMEs embracing online technology had a more positive revenue outlook.

Scollay claims 39% of those who run both a website and social media site for their business were expecting a revenue rise in the next 12 months, versus 22% of those without these sites. 31% using cloud were expecting a rise, versus 24% of non-users.

Similarly, 31% of those with business website were expecting a revenue rise, versus 21%. And 26% of accounting software users were expecting a revenue rise, versus 21% without accounting software.

SMEs who use cloud computing, use a business website, and/or use accounting software said they had more work/sales than usual in their short-term pipeline compared to those who don’t use these tools.

And although work-life balance satisfaction was similar for SMEs with or without an online presence, and with or without accounting software, cloud users were slightly more likely to be satisfied than non-users (57% versus 50%).

SMEs’ top five reasons to use the cloud

Of the 16% of respondents that use cloud computing for business, the most popular reasons for cloud use were reduced IT costs, more access to technology and greater ability to work remotely (25% each).

Scollay reports that 23% cited increased productivity, and 23% said they used it because it allowed them to stay up to date with software and technology.

Business size – greatest and least overall cloud, website and social media usage

Business operators in medium-sized businesses were more likely to have a business website (75%), use social media (57%) and to use cloud computing (20%).

Sole traders had the lowest proportion with a business website (31%) and small business operators had the lowest proportion of social media users (30%). Micro businesses had the lowest proportion of cloud users (11%), while sole traders were more likely to not have an online presence (55%).