There is a significant decline in proactive online business activity, including online transactions, email marketing and social media, among SMBs despite an increasing number running their own websites, according to business management software vendor, MYOB.
The company's July 2012 Business Monitor survey of 1004 SME operators found the proportion with a business website rose slightly, from 36 per cent in March 2012 to 38 per cent.
But it revealed 24 per cent of SMEs used search engines to promote their business, down from 31 per cent in March 2012.
The usage of social media activity also dwindled to 15 per cent from 18 per cent, along with networking on LinkedIn (13 per cent from 19 per cent).
"The decline in popularity of online business activities was completely unexpected, particularly that of online marketing and social media. Many of these tools, such as a basic LinkedIn page, are free and can be used to raise the profile of a business and to communicate with customers," MYOB CEO, Tim Reed, said.
More business operators are experiencing revenue falls than experiencing rises, and the majority lack confidence in a short term economic recovery, he said..
They move away from online activities to focus on the health of their business, as embracing them could reap productivity benefits. "What I'm really pleased to see is the rise in SMEs with a website. I encourage all business owners to consider creating their own if they haven't already. Last year, those with a business website were 53 per cent more likely to experience a revenue increase," he said.
Other findings from the survey include:
37 per cent of SMEs with a business website reported it increased customer leads and 34 per cent said it improved their customer interaction
The top three reasons for SMEs to not have a website were 'we prefer to advertise and market our business using other methods' (68 per cent), 'it's not a priority right now, we have all the work we can handle' (66 per cent) and 'we don't see any value in having a business website' (60 per cent).
47 per cent of Queensland SMEs had a website, an increase from 36 per cent in the March 2012 report. South Australia also saw a strong increase, from 29 per cent to 43 per cent. NSW saw the biggest fall, from 38 per cent to 32 per cent.
Victorians continued to be the biggest users of social media for business, at 19 per cent, though this fell from 24 per cent. Only 11 per cent of people from NSW connect with customers and fans via a business page on Facebook, YouTube or Google+, the least of any state and a drop from 15 per cent.
"With Australia's Internet audience reaching 16.2 million in May 2012, it surprises me that so many business operators have not yet realised the value of having a simple website containing their contact details," Reed said.