Fears of website hacking have driven a fall in small and medium businesses hosting their own websites over the past year, according to the 2017 Sensis eBusiness Report.
Despite this, the online activities of SMEs are taking off in other areas, with companies favouring third party providers to bolster their digital presence.
According to the report, which surveyed 1002 small and medium-sized Australian businesses and 800 consumers, the proportion of businesses worried about hacking this year has risen from 69% to 81%, while the number of businesses hosting their own website fell from 61% to 52%.
However, businesses with another form of internet presence soared from 28% to 80%. Of businesses without a website, 70% are listed in an online directory (up from 19%), and 54% have a social media presence (up from 19%).
Sensis digital manager Alice Mentiplay noted that while nine in 10 medium-sized businesses have a website, among small businesses this number now sits at 50%, having dropped 10 points this year. Only 6% of businesses across the board intend on adding a website this year.
For businesses that already have a website, the survey found a large proportion don’t have mobile-friendly sites.
“There is a growing disconnect between businesses and consumers online,” Mentiplay said in a statement.
“While the smartphone (79%) has overtaken the computer (71%) as the most common device used by consumers to access the internet this year, only 35% of businesses have mobile-friendly sites, with six in 10 not planning to upgrade.
“Businesses should invest in mobile-optimised websites to reflect customer preferences, consider adding an e-commerce function and improve their search engine optimisation.”
The report additionally found that businesses engaging in digital marketing tactics in order to reach their audiences via social media advertising rose from 34% to 48%. There were also increases in those using digital display advertising (32% to 45%) and search engine optimisation (32% to 45%), while search engine marketing use fell slightly (16% to 15%).
“We are seeing a shift in marketing tactics as small and medium businesses become increasingly digitally savvy and choose to spend more of their marketing budget online,” Mentiplay commented.