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Key issues for start-ups in 2013: Digital investment and dwindling confidence

Wednesday, 5 June 2013 | By Rose Powell

Micro-business owners struggling with lower confidence are focusing on investing in their digital presence in the coming months, according to the 2013 Sage Business Index released this week.


The majority of business owners surveyed (81%) reported some level of concern about the coming year.


Micro-business owners (one to four employees) were the most concerned about the future, followed by large businesses (those with over 200 employees).


The report says business confidence findings confirm that business conditions have deteriorated within the past year and for the rest of 2013 remain bleak. It blames poor confidence on weak global economic conditions, the strong Australian dollar driving down competitiveness and predictions Australia’s mining boom will peak this year.


There was a 14 point difference between male and female respondents’ level of concern, with the net score for female decision-makers concerns being -5%, compared to a much higher (more concerned) male score of -19%.


Digital presence is the top investment priority for start-ups


Investing in their digital presence is the leading priority for business owners across the board, with 32% of micro-business investors planning to invest in website development and updates in the next 12 months.


Micro-business owners are also planning to invest in social media over the coming 12 months, with 30% saying they would be investing in social media as a marketing and communication tool, and 28% saying they would be investing in a social media as a sales tool.


Debate about mobile-optimised websites continues, with early adopters claiming benefits


Exploring the emerging area of mobile apps (tablets and smart phones) was the fourth highest reported investment priority for micro-business owners at 22%. One in six business owners interviewed said they were planning on developing an app in the coming two years.


Almost half (40%) of business surveyed said they didn’t believe mobile apps were relevant to their business.


Only 11% of businesses have a mobile optimised website, with a further 6% in the process of developing a mobile optimised website.


For those who have updated their website so it works on mobile devices, 65% of those with a mobile site said they were seeing intangible benefits, and 32% said they were seeing tangible benefits.


Businesses increasingly flexible and open to mobile work strategies


Almost half of the businesses surveyed (47%) said their staff could theoretically work away from the office and 60% said they had an informal policy in place for this practice. Only 12% didn’t allow staff to work remotely (without extenuating circumstances) and 28% had a formal policy.


Thirty-five per cent of business owners said they could see a tangible return on investment for the remote work policies, and 20% said they hadn’t yet, but expected to in the future. Increases in staff communication and productivity were the most reported benefits.