Australian small businesses are set to benefit from the third instalment of PayPal’s Driving Business Online campaign, as new research reveals digital literacy among SMEs remains low.
Launched yesterday by federal Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull the free educational campaign features a series of webinars, seminars, tips and access to business partners to help small businesses capitalise on the digital economy.
New research conducted by PayPal as part of the campaign found technology comprehension is still a major challenge for small businesses, negatively impacting upon their growth rates.
Three in five businesses claimed low levels of digital literacy was preventing them from running their business more efficiently.
Out of the 507 small businesses surveyed, only 14% thought they were taking advantage of everything the internet could offer them, despite 65% agreeing conducting business online is vital to growth.
Now in its third year, small businesses are able to learn how to set up online payment services, integrate invoicing, online bill payment options and how to utilise in-store digital solutions.
Speaking at the Driving Business Online event launch in Sydney yesterday, Turnbull said the government is committed to helping more Australian businesses go online.
“However many businesses don’t have the skills or tools they need to maximise the opportunities presented by the digital economy,” he says.
The research found only 34% of small businesses has their contact details listed online, only 22% advertised online and only 8% used cloud software solutions in their business.
While 89% of the businesses identified as using the internet to communicate or inform people about their business, only 26% were using it to sell their products.
PayPal spokesperson Adrian Christie told SmartCompany PayPal launched the free educational campaign following his experience at a conference in 2011.
“I was sitting at the Australian Retailers Association conference with a colleague when someone put up their hand and said to the presenter: I sell fashion, no one buys fashion online, why do I need an online store?” he says.
“My colleague and I just looked at each other and we thought we should look into this and we found there was a real gap in digital knowledge and there wasn’t much information available for small businesses looking to start up online.”
Christie said they realised small businesses weren’t equipped with the skills necessary to capitalise on the digital economy.
“Nor should they be expected to be. If you’re a carpenter, then you’re expertise is carpentry, you can’t be expected to be great with IT as it’s not your area.
“But there are opportunities, even for businesses which aren’t in the typical categories you think of as doing business online… Farm House Meats, a Tasmanian butcher is now online, as is a dance school in Broken Hill who have started selling dance shoes and leotards through its website.”
Christie says the seminars and webinars teach small businesses everything from how to acquire a URL, to setting up shipping, SEO marketing and the impact of mobile technology.
“We want to help bridge the digital literacy gap,” he says.
“We’ve tried to bring in as many partners as possible. So we have shipping partners on board, Xero to help with accounting issues and we also have sessions hosted by Facebook, LinkedIn and numerous others.”
So far engagement with the program has been positive.
“All the sessions are full and from that perspective it’s been great. We’re getting a lot of repeat visits to the site and people are finding the information useful.
“The conversation around the digital economy has been maturing for the past three years… We’re losing the glitch of the conversation and it’s becoming much more functional about how to optimise business processes.”