Small business is much more nimble

SMALL business in Australia is stealing a march on its larger online rivals with new research showing those with a website are reaping an average of 41% of turnover via the internet.

Research of 1000 small businesses, conducted for Telstra Business and the Council of Small Business of Australia (COSBOA), shows of the 36% of small businesses with a website, six in 10 (63%) are selling products or services online.

The study – limited to companies with 200 employees or fewer – validates anecdotal evidence that Australian small business is much more nimble in seizing online opportunities than the top end of town.

It also showed the sector saw the broader use of technology as critical to their business success.

“There's no doubt we're seeing a seismic shift in the way Australian business operates and it's small to medium enterprises (SMEs) that are leading the way,” said Telstra Executive Director Small Business, Charles Agee.

“While there's been much debate about online shoppers buying products overseas, the move online by small Australian retailers and service-based companies has developed from a ripple into a wave.

COSBOA CEO Peter Strong said it was no surprise small business was embracing the online marketplace so rapidly.

“Earlier research we did with Telstra showed adding new customers (74%) is the top priority for Australian small business this financial year and effectively using the online channel certainly enables that,” Mr Strong said.

“Australian small business is amazingly quick to pick up on innovations if it can see a benefit.

"People are increasingly comfortable with secure online payment systems.

“These are businesses that don't have in-house IT departments that are set in their ways or wedded to long-term contracts.”

The Telstra Business-COSBOA research also shows: 67% of small businesses with a website regard it as important or very important; the proportion of turnover online is strongest in the transport and storage (55.4%), accommodation, cafes, restaurant and travel (53.8%) and retail (52.3%) segments of small business.

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