27/08/2009 - 00:00

E-commerce uptake as SMEs seek a competitive advantage

27/08/2009 - 00:00


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MANY of the misconceptions about e-commerce technology and the potential benefits to the corporate world have been re-evaluated since the dot.com crash of 2000.

MANY of the misconceptions about e-commerce technology and the potential benefits to the corporate world have been re-evaluated since the dot.com crash of 2000.

Small business in particular has turned to online technologies and applications to boost efficiency and marketability.

The latest Sensis e-Business Report, which canvassed 1,800 Australian small to medium-sixed enterprises, explored how the smaller end of town uses and purchases information and e-commerce technology.

The report revealed that 54 per cent of SMEs now have a website, with 71 per cent of those companies saying it had improved business effectiveness, up from 65 per cent last year.

Sensis found that the internet is used to pay for goods and services by 74 per cent of SMEs, an increase of three percentage points from 2008.

Small businesses in the communications, property and business services sectors were found most likely to place orders through the internet (82 per cent), while those in the building and construction sector were least likely (57 per cent).

Nationally, SMEs in the Northern Territory were found most likely to place orders online (86 per cent), with those in Western Australia the least likely (71 per cent).

Report author Christena Singh said that, during the past two years, SMEs spent considerably less on computer hardware and software than previous years, although more business owners bought a range of new telecommunications equipment, with 62 per cent of survey respondents owning a 3G mobile phone with internet access.

"Businesses have begun focusing on online technology, becoming more creative with the way in which they market their products and services online, and more adventurous with the technology they purchase," she said.

The report found that about one quarter of SMEs currently undertake digital marketing programs, such as advertising on third-party websites and portals, with a further 8 per cent expected to sign on next year.

Ms Singh said email remained the number one use of the internet for SMEs (97 per cent), followed by obtaining product and service information (92 per cent), sourcing reference material (91 per cent), and internet banking (86 per cent).

The state's e-commerce sector has recently enjoyed an increase in demand for services, particularly during the global financial crisis, as small business owners look for cost-efficient ways of contacting clients, marketing their business and moving inventory.

Among them is Osborne Park-based Minidigital, which specialises in the development and implementation of websites for SMEs.

Minidigital owner Ben Moran said there had been a growing acceptance among WA business owners of the need to streamline business operations and move more inventory through an electronic commerce system.

"The online sector has held up rather well compared to traditional avenues in conducting business [during the downturn]," Mr Moran told WA Business News.

"I think people are realising that going online can be cost effective and particularly with things like email marketing, you can quite easily capitalise on your existing database without spending a whole lot of money."


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