Small businesses in regional areas are failing to grasp the potential of online, with only 54% having a website and fewer still having any sort of web strategy.
Research conducted by Sensis found that just 13% of rural SMEs have an online strategy, while a mere 15% use social media to market themselves to customers and other businesses.
Businesses in rural NSW appear to be the most web savvy among the states, with 66% having a website, 19% having an online strategy and 15% utilising social media.
In Victoria, by comparison, just 52% of regional SMEs have an online presence and just 7% have any sort of web strategy.
Tasmanian businesses are faring worst, according to the study, with just 35% of regional SMEs having a website and only 9% using social media.
The research was conducted as part of the Driving Your Business series of seminars which is currently being undertaken by Sensis brand Yellow Pages.
The seminar tour, which offers free digital marketing help to Australian small businesses, kicked off in Victoria on September and will conclude in Newcastle, NSW, on October 27.
Martin Dench, field marketing manager at Yellow Pages, says that many rural small businesses find the process of going online overly complex.
“Many businesses are using websites as a brochure, rather than engage customers online and leverage that into sales,” he says.
“The feedback we’ve being getting from the seminars that it’s quite complex and time-consuming to run a website.”
“Obviously, a lot of small businesses are time poor, so there’s concern and reluctance to use social media. They don’t know how to utilise it or handle negative comment.
“Key things to do include finding a trusted provider that knows your business and customers. Also, make sure you have a strategy before you launch a site and be aware how it fits into your overall marketing strategy.
“When you start a site, keep it simple – include contact information and a description of your business. You need that base to start with.”
“Finally, social media is only going to get bigger for consumers. You need to embrace it, engage with people and understand what it can do for your business.”