Refocusing Business Efforts for the Digital Age

By Robert Tolliday | 17 Aug 2015

Sensis recently released a report that looked at how small and medium businesses are navigating the digital age curve. Here follows some further advice.

In recent years we have heard much about the e-commerce boom in Australia, driven by ever increasing internet connectivity and the popularity of mobile devices. According to the OECD, Australia is one of eight countries in the world where mobile broadband subscriptions have exceeded 100 percent penetration[i]. In other words, there are more mobile broadband subscriptions in Australia than there are people.

To better understand how Australians have adapted to the digital age and what this means for business, Sensis has tracked the progression of e-commerce for more than 10 years. The latest Sensis eBusiness Report found that 61 percent of Australians made an online purchase in the past year, spending on average around $4,400 for the year. Men reported spending more than two and half times as much as females, around $6,500 compared to $2,400. A large proportion of these purchases were from local online retailers, with 21 percent of purchases from overseas.

For many small businesses this presents one of the best growth opportunities, unshackled by size or location. Yet the digital world can be daunting and it can be a challenge to figure out where to focus your efforts in response to the growing online demand.

As your digital shop front, your website is a great place to start. It’s important to get the basics right. Your website should be welcoming and provide answers to the most common questions customers are likely to have about your business. Search-engine-friendly text will give you the best chance of being found online by prospective customers and it’s crucial that your website is fully responsive, this means that it was designed to be viewed on a laptop, tablet and mobile.

The eBusiness Report found that more than half of the population looked for information on products or services on a mobile device in the past 12 months, with 44 percent making a purchase on a smartphone and 34 percent on a tablet. Yet currently only about 35 percent of small businesses have their website optimised for mobile and other devices, with 28 percent of those yet to make the move intending to do so this year. While there remains a small proportion of businesses that are not yet online, the eBusiness Report found that 56 percent of retailers connected to the internet are currently selling online.

Once you’ve got your website optimised and ready to trade, you need to ensure you can be found online through search engine optimisation, or SEO, and search engine marketing, known as SEM. While SEM is relatively straight forward, it basically means paying for advertising on search engines like Google and Bing, SEO is a much tougher nut to crack. 46 percent of small business owners say being on the first page of a search engine is important so there is stiff competition for the prime digital real estate.

However, there are some basic rules that help you cut through the online clutter. Start local, the eBusiness Report found that 82 percent of retailers mainly sell to customers in their city or town. Search engines hate duplicate content, so make sure you create unique content that reflects you and your business. Take advantage of the numerous free online tools, such as Google Analytics, which give you an insight to your site’s performance and what your customers are doing online. Lastly, don’t go for shortcuts, as they are unlikely to work. Keyword stuffing, repeating keywords over and over on your site, is more than likely going to get you penalised. Create useful, relevant content to rank well.

Social media can be a good way to keep in touch with existing customers and reach new customers, but it’s not as easy as it used to be. Whereas once it was possible to get great results from social with a bit of creativity and consistency, today social should be viewed as a paid platform like any other digital channel. Social media remains one of the best ways to get feedback from your customers. If you do something that they’re not happy about they will tell you in an instant.

Just over a third of small businesses reported using social media to promote their business, with Facebook being the most popular by a long shot. 93 percent of small businesses have a Facebook page, 22 percent are on Twitter and 19 percent use LinkedIn. It’s important to understand that each platform has different strengths and it’s going to take time and resources to build an engaged audience.

Like any aspect of your business, the key to ensuring that you get the most out of your technology and digital efforts is to make sure everything you do can be tied back to a positive business outcome. Start with clear objectives in mind, commit to one digital channel at a time, and be prepared to test and learn from your efforts.

To help you navigate the many facets of digital marketing it helps to have trusted partners that you can turn to for advice and assistance. While anyone with a bit of digital nous can set themselves up as a small business marketing expert, it pays to shop around. Seek advice from other small business owners and don’t hesitate to ask for proof of the work they’ve done for other retailers before committing to any provider.

Marketing your business doesn’t need to cost the earth or take up your weekends. Take advantage of the multitude of free resources and eBooks online by marketing experts that give practical advice on how to market your business.

For more research and advice on small business marketing go to www.sensis.com.au or follow @Sensis on Twitter.

[i] OECD. 2015. OECD broadband statistics update. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.oecd.org/internet/broadband-statistics-update.htm.

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