ipad 820272 640Australia’s small and medium businesses could miss out on reaching new customers and billions of dollars of online sales this Christmas because they don’t have a website or they’re lacking eCommerce capabilities, online experts say.

Telstra research with 1,031 SMBs, showed half (49 per cent) report not having a website, and of those that do, more than one third (38%) are not optimised for mobile devices.

Executive Chairman of the National Online Retailers Association, Paul Greenberg, said businesses should consider upgrading their online presence in time for Christmas to take advantage of the increasing number of digital savvy shoppers.

“We expect to see consumer online sales exceed those of last year, as more people go online to search and make enquiries or purchases across categories from food and beverages to toys, clothing, accessories, gift hampers, electronics and health and beauty products,” he said.

It is estimated that Australian shoppers will spend more than $48.1 billion over the Christmas trading period[i].

“Around 7 – 8% of retail sales are made online, however the real number of sales influenced by online could be even higher as the way people shop means a sale might start online, but finish up in store.”

SMBs report the main reason for not having a website is that it is an unnecessary cost (51 per cent), it is too difficult to set up and they don’t know where to start (19 per cent).

Telstra Executive Director, Connected Business, Kevin Udell, said having the right digital presence was not only important for capturing online sales, but also for being found in search results leading up to a purchase decision.

“Increasing numbers of people are researching, planning and making their purchases from anywhere at any time so it’s important businesses are offering customers the chance to interact with their brand when, where and how they want to.

“The three most important parts to being online-ready are having a fresh, credible, professional looking website; making sure you’re website is available across multiple channels, including mobile; and having a strong inventory management platform to help you sell online,” he said.

Only one third (33 per cent) of the businesses surveyed have e-commerce functionality, with the majority (59 per cent) depending on the physical or in-store experience to make sales.

“For business customers who want to grow online, it’s important to think about developing a website which can grow as your business requirements do, whether that is being found on Google, selling online or promoting your site,” he said.

Those with e-commerce functionality cite benefits including attracting more customer enquiries to grow their business (35 per cent), providing a better customer experience (27 per cent), providing an online brochure of the business (22 per cent) and enhancing their ability to compete against larger businesses (15 per cent).

[i] Australian Retailers Association: http://retail.org.au/news-posts/australian-shoppers-to-spend-48-1-billion-this-christmas/