Is the digital engine humming or sputtering?
MYOB’s Business Monitor – a national survey of small and medium business owners and managers – has found that more and more Australian SMEs are using more and more online technologies to run their businesses. If that’s the cup half full, consider the one half empty: Simultaneously, the survey found a growing divide between the online-savvy businesses and the online laggards.
The 2014 study, which surveyed 1,032 SMEs, found that 42% now have a website, up from 38% six months ago. Similarly, social media was up six percentage points to 39%, and cloud computing more than doubled to 33%. Tablet use rose to 27%, from 24%, but smartphone usage, surprisingly, fell three percentage points to 43%.
On the other hand, the digital divide, disturbingly, is real and growing.
Tech affects many business performance metrics
The SMEs that don’t keep pace with online technologies are growing at a slower pace and a higher proportion of these laggards expects weaker growth, when compared with companies at the cutting edge of online technologies.
Almost half of SMEs who use cloud technology and over two-fifths with a website and a social media site reported higher sales or a more robust work pipeline. In contrast, slightly more than one-quarter of SMEs without a website reported more pipeline work.
“It’s evident the digital divide among SMEs is widening, and we strongly believe it’s time for more business operators to take a look at the benefits of easy-to-use online technology for the health of their business,” said MYOB Chief Strategy Officer John Moss.
Moss says the difference between online businesses and those that don’t have an online presence, is reflected across several business performance measures.
“Online businesses are more likely to be making a contribution to wider economic growth, including improved job opportunities for Australians,” said Moss.
About 18% of businesses with a website and 18% with a social media site plan to increase full-time staff this year. That’s double or more than the 7% of businesses without a website and the 9% without social media who expect to be hiring this year.
“What’s clear to us from our years of conducting research into SMEs’ use of online technologies is that businesses with an online presence reach more people and are more engaged with their customers,” Moss asserted.
Here are some other findings of the survey:
- The five most popular online services were: email (76%), online banking (69%), social networking (29%), buying products and services online (22%), and email marketing, VOIP and file sharing (each 21%.)
- Over one-third of SMEs (38%) now accept some form of online payment via a shopping cart
- 21% use search engine optimisation and 18% use search engine marketing
- 16% have an e-commerce facility within their website, and 12% use other websites to sell products and services.
- LinkedIn is the most popular business social media platform with 18% penetration among SMEs
- Western Australia is the most connected, with 37% of businesses using cloud computing and 19% with a business website and social media site.
- South Australia was least likely to use cloud computing (21%) and a business website and a social media site (14%).
- Operators based in city and metropolitan areas were the most likely to have an online presence (57%), while rural-based operators were the least likely (38%).
The 2014 Business Monitor survey was carried out by independent market research firm Colmar Brunton in January and February 2014. It surveyed 1,032 Australian operators from sole traders to mid-sized companies, representing the major industry sectors.