In good news for small and medium businesses looking to capitalise on ecommerce, more and more Australian customers are purchasing goods online from local companies.

According to the 2016 Sensis eBusiness Report more than half (54 per cent) of Australia’s SMEs are using ecommerce, with 95 per cent making most of their online sales to customers in Australia.

In fact, for those using ecommerce, online sales have grown from 32 per cent to 43 per cent of their total sales over the past four years, says Sensis commercial director, Rob Tolliday.

“While a quarter is selling to overseas customers, only two per cent are making most of their sales to this group,” he explains. "Selling online has become increasingly important as fewer shops have a physical store front and those that do have to battle with major overseas retailers who have landed in the key shopping strips.”

The report also found that more than 61 per cent of small and medium businesses now have a website (up from 56 per cent), and 43 per cent of those are optimised for mobile devices (up from 35 per cent). However, only 19 per cent of businesses have a digital business strategy.

“Of those businesses that don’t have a mobile friendly website almost two thirds have no plans to upgrade. This is a risky strategy, given Google’s search algorithm preferences mobile friendly sites and customers now expect a seamless digital experience on any device,” he says.

“Businesses not already online often feel overwhelmed and aren’t sure where to start. The best thing to do is to create a simple digital business strategy. This will help them choose the right products and services to target their customers, while only spending what they can afford.

“While your website can be a crucial destination for your customers, not all businesses have one. Of those businesses without a web presence, almost one in five are listed in a directory, some are featured on third party websites and others are on social media. So your strategy can be tailored to your budget and marketing priorities.”

According to Tolliday there are five reasons why businesses need to optimise their website for mobile devices.

1. Customers now spend most of their time on mobile devices―the Sensis survey found that 78 per cent of Aussies now own a smartphone, and 73 per cent use it to search the internet. Consumers expect a seamless digital experience on their mobile and if they don’t get it from your site, they will bounce to one of your competitors.

2. Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)―almost six in 10 businesses surveyed say that being on page one of a Google search is important. Therefore, SEO is crucial and Google now preferences sites optimised for mobile in its search results.

3. Social platforms are preferencing sites that load quickly―Facebook recently announced it will push websites with slow times to the back of queue on its platform. Their research shows that 40 per cent of users leave a site after a single click, frustrated by sites that take longer than three seconds to load.

4. There is no point advertising on mobile if your site isn’t up to scratch―around a third of SMBs now advertise online (32 per cent), with a similar number advertising on social networks (34 per cent). While digital advertising is a great way to reach your customers, there is no point advertising online if you are driving customers to a website that is not up to scratch.

5. It’s probably cheaper and easier than you think―the average SMB only spent $3,300 last year building and maintaining their website. And you can get a new, fully optimised website for even less than that. Given the impact of not upgrading, it’s an investment every business needs to make.

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