SMEs ‘not adapting adequately to the digital age’

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RESEARCH by Johnston Press shows there is a big gap between the way consumers use online and mobile services, and the information Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) provide on these channels.

The study, carried out by BuzzBoard for The Yorkshire Post publisher, found that while 30 per cent of online orders on Black Friday and 22 per cent of online orders on Cyber Monday were placed on a mobile device, 71 per cent of the UK’s SMEs were incapable of handling mobile shoppers.

Around 44 per cent of SMEs don’t have a website, with 93 per cent failing to provide a local contact number on the home page.

The study, commissioned by Digital Kitbag, Johnston Press’s digital marketing service for SMEs, looked at seven “digital readiness” indicators like website and search engine readiness, online marketing and multiscreen compatibility, across 960,350 SMEs in the UK.

Chris Brake, managing director of Johnston Press’ Digital Kitbag service, said: “Digital opportunities offer huge potential for SMEs and so it is shocking to see so few are getting this right.

“SMEs are in a prime position to drive the UK economy, but to fulfil their potential they must recognise the importance of digital and also take advantage of the numerous sources of help and advice available to them.”

The research also found that SMEs had a limited social media presence, 69 per cent had no Twitter account, 70 per cent had no Facebook page and 89 per cent had no LinkedIn. Services that are all available for free.

Many businesses had low search engine visibility and 91 per cent had not invested in AdWords, meaning SMEs are missing out on search based sales and failing to maximise the potential of search engine marketing to generate leads.

The suvey also found that 95 per cent had no shopping cart despite the upward trend in more and more people shopping online.

Trevor Nadeau, managing director EMEA, BuzzBoard said it was “unbelievable” that so many small businesses were failing to capitalise on the potential of the internet, with nine in ten people now using it.

He added: “There is a clear need to address the misconception that digital strategies need be complex, and educate small businesses about the options available to help boost their digital presence.”

Over half those questioned said they would like to seek external advice but only 24 per cent have done so, suggesting many don’t know where to turn for advice.