More businesses have websites but fewer are actually using online tools, including search engines and social media, to market their products, according to the latest MYOB Business Monitor.
It’s an unusual finding. For the past several months online activity has been steadily increasing.
The monthly survey, which questions over 1,000 SMEs in Australia, discovered that, for July, while the number of businesses using websites actually increased from 36% to 38%, the number of companies using search engines for marketing dropped from 31% to 24%.
Social media activity has also been dwindling, down from 18% to 15%. LinkedIn use has fallen too from 19% to 13%.
It doesn’t stop there. The number of businesses paying bills on suppliers’ websites dropped from 44% to 37%, and the number of businesses buying products or services online dropped from 37% to 24%.
Email marketing to potential or existing customers fell from 26% to 24%, and the number of companies accepting online payments dropped from 25% to 19%.
The number of companies using a blog had also fallen from 12% to 9%.
Chief executive Tim Reed said the decline was “completely unexpected” – and noted the decline isn’t concentrated to social media.
“Many of these tools, such as a basic LinkedIn page, are free and can be used to raise the profile of a business and to communicate with customers.”
“We also found more business operators are experiencing revenue falls than are experiencing rises, and the majority lack confidence in a short-term economic recovery. I suspect this has seen many shy away from online activities as they focus on the health of their business, whereas embracing them could reap productivity benefits.”
The survey argues those businesses using a website have a clear advantage, with 37% of online businesses reporting it increased customer leads, and 34% saying it improved customer interactions. 32% also said it grew their revenue.
The report even found that businesses with a website are more likely to see their revenue increase – 23% compared to 15% of businesses without one. Those with websites also expect an increase in the next year – 35% compared to 25%.
Online businesses are also planning to increase the number of products they sell, 36% to 22%, pay staff more, at 32% to 22%, and increase the spend on marketing online, with 30% compared to 15%.
For those businesses without a website, the most popular reason cited by 68% of businesses was “we prefer to advertise and market our business using other methods”.
The survey found Victorians remain the heaviest users of social media, at 19% – down from 24%. South Australians were the least likely to use Twitter at 3%, while Queenslanders were the most likely to have a website, at 47%.