13/09/2016 - 14:51

Challenges remain despite e-commerce growth

13/09/2016 - 14:51

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Western Australian businesses are ahead of the curve in several aspects of e-commerce, reporting more online presence via websites, social networks and use of a digital business strategy than other states, according to the Sensis eBusiness report released today.

More than half (54 per cent) of small and medium businesses across the country are engaging with e-commerce.

Western Australian businesses are ahead of the curve in several aspects of e-commerce, reporting more online presence via websites, social networks and use of a digital business strategy than other states, according to the Sensis eBusiness report released today.

WA businesses lagged those in other states in terms of website optimisation for mobile devices, however.

Sensis surveyed 1,800 Australians (1,000 business and 800 consumers) and found that more than half (54 per cent) of small and medium businesses across the country were engaging with e-commerce.

WA businesses led in some key areas, with 66 per cent reporting to have a website (up from 49 per cent in 2015), compared with 61 per cent of businesses nationally (56 per cent in 2015), while the 40 per cent likely to advertise on social networks was ahead of 34 per cent nationally.

Businesses in WA were also equally most likely (with Victoria) to have implemented a digital business strategy (21 per cent versus 19 per cent nationally) in the past year.  

Despite leading on the website front, only 40 per cent of WA businesses reported that their websites were optimised for mobile devices, compared with 43 per cent nationally (up from 35 per cent in 2015).

The 2016 Sensis report also revealed 78 per cent of Australians owned a smartphone and 73 per cent reported using a mobile device to search the internet.

In light of these statistics, Sensis commercial director Rob Tolliday said almost two thirds of those businesses that didn’t have a mobile-friendly website had no plans to upgrade this functionality.  

“This is a risk strategy given Google’s search algorithm preferences mobile friendly sites and customers now expect seamless digital experience on any device,” he said.

Mr Tolliday said selling online had become increasingly important for businesses due to fewer physical shop fronts and rising competition with major overseas retailers.

“For those using ecommerce, online sales have grown from 32 per cent to 43 per cent of their total sales over the past four years,” he said.

“And while a quarter are selling to overseas customers, only 2 per cent are making most of their sales to this group.”

The report revealed that local sales dominated online, with more than two thirds of Australian small and medium businesses (67 per cent) selling to businesses in their local city or town.

Businesses in WA were the most likely to target customers in its local town or city (80 per cent) compared with any other state or territory in the country (67 per cent), making WA the least likely to sell to interstate customers via the internet (34 per cent versus 47 per cent).

In addition to the commercial benefits of the digital age, businesses are also turning to technology’s capabilities for in-house operations to help increase productivity and free up time to innovate to ensure employees are more effective at work.

According to a recent Telstra survey of Australia’s leading businesses, 71 per cent of business leaders felt they could improve productivity through better use of technology.

While 86 per cent of small and medium businesses had existing initiatives that targeted productivity, owners reported losing hours of productivity each week on tasks like email and administration.

Of those surveyed by Telstra, 99 per cent believed technology, in particular business apps, could reduce these menial tasks and deliver productivity gains. More than 50 per cent said, as a result of more productivity efficiency, this extra time would be used to innovate. 

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