Is the recovery in the hands of small businesses online?

A report published this week estimates that only one third of small and medium-sized companies in the UK have a digital presence and only 14% sell their products and services online, missing out on the potential for billions of pounds more revenue.

Global consultants Booz and Company concluded that by getting businesses online, and ensuring that consumers are also competent to use the internet, huge value could be added to the UK economy.

So who is online and wanting to find out about YOUR products and services?  The Office for National Statistics has released its annual surveys of internet usage.  The number of individuals using computers – specifically those who have used them in the last three months, not occasional flash-in-the-pan visits – is rising year on year.  There is still a gap in the 65+ age range – many of whom simply rely on family to do the essentials online such as booking appointments and shopping – but the vast majority of consumers are actively using computers in their day today lives.

With dire predictions about the future of the economy, and the sluggish lift from recession, it may well be in the hands of small business to save the country by taking steps to build their business online. Building a business takes clicks, not bricks, and expansion online comes with lower setup costs than traditional physical expansion.

While not every business should be selling its goods and services online, 14% is a very low proportion of online retailers!  Setting up an e-commerce website to supplement your local sales is more cost effective than you might think, and you don’t have to have the whole caboodle on there: just the goods and services that you can deliver effectively over a wider geographical area.

Even more concerning are the two-thirds of small businesses who think they don’t need to manage their online presence.  We hear all the time about  companies who get their business by word of mouth, or don;t think their customers are online.  The graph above shows very clearly that everyone’s customers are online!  If your business isn’t represented, your competitor’s very likely will be.

The trends of usage are only going to grow as new initiatives are put in place to bring the minority online.  Kick-start your business, and you may well have a hand in kick-starting our economy too.

Kate Baucherel