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Tuesday, 17 October 2017 00:14

Digital engagement on the rise for Aussie SMBs: survey


Digital engagement remains a real opportunity, and real marketplace differentiator for the small business sector, according to a new report done for Google. It shows that in just 12 months SMB adoption of digital tools has grown significantly.

According to professional services firm Deloitte Access Economics, which wrote the Connected Small Businesses 2017 report for Google, 12% of businesses are moving up the digital “ladder” and no longer have just “basic” levels of digital engagement.

In fact, according to the report, for the first time, half of the businesses surveyed have reached advanced or “high levels” of engagement across areas that include social media, e-commerce, websites, online marketing tools and data analytics.

And Deloitte Access Economics partner, and the report’s principal author, John O’Mahony, says more than two million SMBs make an important contribution to the Australian economy, accounting for over half of private sector economic activity and over two-thirds of its employment.  

“And in recent years, digital engagement in the sector has become a critical ingredient to success on a number of fronts – from revenue growth and job creation, to innovation and export opportunities,” O’Mahony says.

“We’ve found that since our first report for Google in 2013, SMB take-up of digital tools has been accelerating over time, and that there has been a particularly strong uptick since we last surveyed business operators only 12 months ago.”

The Deloitte report also identifies an improvement in digital engagement across all industries.

The report reveals that despite perceptions of lower digital engagement, SMBs in traditional industries such as mining, manufacturing and utilities, and trade and hospitality were found to be performing even more strongly on digital engagement than knowledge industries such as professional and financial services, and health, education and public administration.

And relative to SMBs with basic levels of digital engagement, SMBs with advanced levels of digital engagement are:

  • 50% more likely to be growing revenue; and
  • Earning 60% more revenue per employee.  

“Engaging with, investing in, and then keeping up with digital can open up significant new opportunities for SMBs in terms of agility, competitive advantage, innovation and growth, regardless of industry and geography,” O’Mahony says.

“It’s encouraging that digital engagement has increased across the board, but SMBs in regional areas and those with more established operations have lower digital engagement on average.

“Our research suggests that age of the business owner or manager, their attitude to and use of technology are key factors in determining the level of digital engagement for the business.”

The report also reveals that SMBs have identified a number of barriers to increasing digital engagement.

“While we’ve seen a lot of improvement, nearly 90% of SMBs are still not taking full advantage of today’s digital tools,” O’Mahony says.

“There’s still work to be done in helping some business owners and decision makers to understand the value associated with increased digital engagement.

“And education and upskilling is certainly one areas that can help build trust in digital tools and address potential issues or perceived barriers to greater engagement.

“In the end, there can be a clear financial dividend for those smaller businesses that get things right, just as there are significant risks for those that haven’t yet taken the digital leap.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - an iTWire treasure is a mentor and coach who volunteers also a writer and much valued founding partner of iTWire. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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