More than a quarter of SMEs aren't even online

A new study of small businesses found that only 13 per cent offer the three online services most demanded by consumers: click and collect, online payments and the ability to browse products.

The research, commissioned by Nominet – the internet company best known for running the .uk internet infrastructure – to mark Small Business Saturday, shows that many SMEs (small to medium enterprises) remain out-of-date when it comes to meeting modern customer expectations. Other key findings include:

  • Over a quarter (26 per cent) of small businesses still don’t have a basic website with contact details and opening times, while six in ten do not have a Facebook page
  • This is despite more than a quarter of consumers (28 per cent) thinking that businesses without a web presence are outdated or can’t keep up with the times
  • More than half (51 per cent) of SMEs realise their reputation would be tarnished if they weren’t online, while 53 per cent admit they won’t be able to compete with larger organisations in the future without an online presence

This is in sharp contrast to a Nominet consumer poll conducted to mark Small Business Saturday last year, which found that ‘click and collect’ services, online purchases and the ability to browse or research products were all wanted by over a third of consumers, and would encourage them to shop locally. Yet the vast majority of small businesses still don’t offer all three of these services. The top reasons for not doing so are a perception that it isn’t relevant to their business, thinking that customers don’t want them, and that they lack the necessary skills to implement them.

Some businesses recognise the importance of being online, with 51 per cent believing they would lose customers to competitors who maintain an online presence. The need to do better is also clear, as only 55 per cent of respondents think they are meeting their customers’ online expectations.