Weakening performance among Australians businesses compared to 2012 is impacting business confidence with retail businesses more than twice as likely to report declining performances this year, according to the Sage Australia Business Index 2013.

The Index also indicated retailers expressed the least confidence about prospects for the year ahead and state they are more concerned about business growth prospects in light of the current economic issues.

The lack of confidence is making retailers more cautious about business investment than other industry groups. Retailers are only 30 per cent likely than all other 51 per cent of businesses to invest in technology in the next 12 months, as well as social media as a social tool.

Instead, reflecting the growing consumer demand for online sales and service, and global competition for the consumer dollar, the major technology priority for retailers in 2013 is website development and upgrades.  Retailers appear to be focused on getting their online presence in order first and foremost, before exploring other technologies.

Retailers are grappling with consumer caution, intense competition, a high Australian dollar and years of tight margins.  Most took steps to reduce inventory and cut costs a few years ago.  There's little efficiency yet to be eked out of the business and little confidence conditions will change.  That's why their focus has turned to their websites and very specific mobile technologies that might just help them to retain existing customers and reach new ones,” Alan Osrin, Sage Software Australia managing director, said.

The Sage Index also showed one one of the biggest business technology trends of the past 12 months has been the adoption of mobile tools and technologies. A little under half of all Australian businesses are turning to staff and workplace mobility initiatives in a bid to tackle productivity issues head on.  Among retailers however, where staff must be on the premises, staff mobility and mobile enabled systems are largely considered impractical and therefore, irrelevant.

The only mobility technologies to gain significant attention from retailers are those that offer potential benefit to customers – mobile enabled websites and mobile apps. Retail businesses are almost eight times more likely to offer all their services via an app (23 per cent versus 3 per cent) and three times as likely to offer at least some of the services via a mobile app. They are also more than twice as likely to have a mobile or tablet optimised website as other businesses (27 per cent compared to 11 per cent).  
If they don't already have a mobile-optimised website, they are almost three times more likely to be planning to implement such a site in two or more years (25 per cent of retail businesses compared to 8 per cent of all others). The findings suggest that the majority of retailers recognise value in a mobile-optimised site, but many plan to wait for a couple of years – perhaps to focus on their main website – before taking action.