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SMEs playing the waiting game with their websites: Report

Tuesday, 13 November 2012 | By Michelle Hammond

Almost half of Australian SMEs with an online presence didn’t launch their website until they were trading for six months, while 15% put it off until their second year in business, according to a new survey.

 

The findings come from website specialist Snap, which surveyed more than 250 SME owner-managers on how small businesses are adopting online technologies.

 

The survey shows nearly a third (29%) of Australian SMEs don’t have a website at all, again underlining the comparatively slow take-up of online by small firms.

 

Of those that do have a website, 45% didn’t launch it until they had been trading for six months, while 15% waited until their second year in business before investing in one.

 

The survey also highlights business owners’ limited knowledge of website design – almost 80% don’t have an eCommerce or shopping cart function on their site.

 

Online advertising channels are also underutilised, according to the survey. Almost half of the business owners surveyed don’t conduct any kind of SEO activity, while 83% fail to undertake Google AdWords or pay-per-click activity.

 

This is despite the fact that websites and online are rated as the second most important marketing channel, prioritised above marketing, PR and having a showroom or shop front.

 

There is also a “DIY attitude” among business owners, according to the survey, with nearly a third (30%) refusing to employ professional help to build or amend their website.

 

More than two thirds (67%) of the survey respondents take on the job themselves, while 27% rely on the services of friends and family, and 9% use work experience staff or office juniors.

 

However, their refusal to seek professional help has resulted in problems, the most common being confusing navigation (65%).

 

This is followed by ill-conceived design (42%), spelling mistakes (29%), unnecessary website downtime (29%) and broken links or error 404 messages (24%).

 

The study also asked business owners what they thought of a supplier or partner with a badly designed website.

 

While 16% said it didn’t bother them, almost 60% said it reflected badly on the company, and 47% said it made them less likely to use that company’s products or services.

 

According to Snap chief executive Stephen Edwards, business owners can no longer place websites in the “too hard” basket.

 

“In today’s market, businesses should not only have a website, but they should operate at a certain level of sophistication,” Edwards says.

 

“[They should be] able to sell products through an online store, take customer enquiries and appear highly in search rankings.”

 

“It’s no longer acceptable for owner-managers to shrug their shoulders and claim that this technology is too expensive or complicated.”

 

“The vast majority of Australians are now active online, so it’s essential for Australian businesses to have a sophisticated web presence too.”