Marketing and the digital tools that can be used has evolved rapidly over the past decade. Small business owners now have an array of options when it comes to raising awareness of their company. From traditional marketing of flyers, direct mail and TV broadcast to online marketing of social media, websites and online advertising. One of the top three reasons from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) of start-ups failing was because they didn’t have an online presence. Another ONS study has suggested that 76 per cent of British adults use the internet every day, with 74 per cent buying goods or services online at some stage in 2014. Despite these figures, the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills suggest that up to two million small firms have no online presence(1).
The UK economy is the most internet-reliant amongst developed countries, with SMEs doing particularly well from having speedy and reliant internet connections. The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) found that the internet economy in this country was worth £121 billion in 2010, making it bigger than healthcare, construction or education. The report also revealed that more online shopping takes place in the UK than any other member of the G20 countries, with 13.5 per cent of all purchases being done through the internet(2).
Without an online presence, British businesses are potentially missing out on the biggest free exposure to a worldwide audience; this means missing out on brand recognition and potential leads and sales. SMEs are starting to recognise this with a predicted £53 billion to be invested by UK SMEs on technology over the next two years, mainly focusing on improving their websites. According to research by Santander, this figure is necessary for SMEs to massively increase their digital presence; with the majority of investment being focused on improving websites – as it appears that digital presence isn’t a choice anymore but a necessity.
A sixth of SMEs have no website at all, while only 34 per cent can accept payments online currently – depending on the type of your business, this could be harming you more than you realise. Despite the advancements made in technology, it’s not just new SMEs that are failing to grasp the importance of the digital world. A large number of established British SMEs are still not “digital ready” with 71 per cent admitting to being unable to handle online consumers, which means they could be missing out on millions of pounds of revenue a year(3).
Statistics into the perceived benefits of online presence of SMEs in 2014 and 2015 found the biggest benefit was being able to reach a wider audience geographically with time savings coming in second and then effective marketing in third(4).