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Net trade slows – report

WESTERN Australian small businesses are buying more but selling less online than their counterparts in the eastern states, despite more WA businesses being connected to the internet, according to the latest Sensis E-business report. Interviews with 1,800 small and medium sized enterprises around Australia, examining their attitudes and experiences with e-business and online technology, found that email remained the single most important reason for internet use by SMEs. The second most important use of the internet, according to the report, was to obtain reference information or research data, while the third highest usage was to look for information about products and services. About 93 per cent of WA SMEs are connected to the internet, up from 89 per cent last year, and slightly higher than the national average of 92 per cent. But only 45 per cent of WA SMEs have a website, down from 49 per cent last year, and below the national average of 51 per cent. While 64 per cent of SMEs purchase online, compared with 59 per cent nationally, 44 per cent of SMEs sell, or take orders, online, 4 per cent less than the national average. "It is interesting to note that the proportion of SMEs in WA that mainly sell to customers overseas is higher than those that mainly sell interstate, and that the proportion selling overseas is slightly higher than the national average," the report’s author, Sensis’ Christena Singh, said. The wholesale trade sector recorded the strongest proportion of SMEs that reported taking orders online, with tourism-based businesses and exporters also more likely to sell online. In contrast, the health and services sector recorded the lowest proportion of SMEs taking orders and payments online. Broadband connection for SMEs has increased 20 per cent on last year, with 91 per cent of WA SMEs connected to the internet via broadband, the same as the national average. The major concerns for SMEs associated with e-commerce are the risk of people hacking into their computer systems, a lack of expertise and computer knowledge, and the cost of hardware and software.

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