Computers and artificial intelligence have come along at an exponential rate over the past few decades, from being regarded as oversized adding machines to the point where they have played integral roles in some legitimately creative endeavours.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) Australian businesses are increasingly becoming active in the digital economy, using online marketing tools and social networks to promote their wares.
According to the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s (ACMA) new Australian SMEs in the digital economy report, 26 per cent of SMEs are now using social media channels to market themselves, with Facebook the channel of choice for 88 per cent of those surveyed.
This was followed by Twitter (24 per cent), LinkedIn (21 per cent) and YouTube (10 per cent). Across the board, the report found 54 per cent of small businesses (less than 20 staff) are marketing and advertising their businesses through digital activities, compared with 74 per cent of medium-sized organisations (21-199 staff). In total, 64 per cent of respondents had a website including 90 per cent of medium-sized companies.
While the figure remains small, the number of online SMEs with a mobile-optimised website has doubled in the past year to 18 per cent. Not surprisingly, medium-sized businesses are more likely to have made the investment into mobile-optimised websites (27 per cent versus 18 per cent).
Just 4 per cent have developed mobile applications to deliver services online to mobile Internet users.
The report also found 39 per cent of SMEs with employees allowed their staff to telework for at least one day a week, and that 47 per cent are using some form of cloud computing service.
When it comes to what’s stopping SMEs from better embracing the digital environment, 60 per cent blamed it on a lack of knowledge, yet only 51 per cent of these respondents have actively tried to improve their skills through online search and training tools.
Top areas of improvement are developing a better Web presence, utilising cloud-based solutions, and accepting payments through websites.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australian businesses earned $237 billion in income from selling goods and services online during 2011-2012, a rise of 25 per cent on 2010-2011.
The ACMA research was conducted by Woolcott Research in May-June 2013 across 1500 small and medium-sized businesses.
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