Whether it's to transact sales or generate leads, small businesses are relying on their Web sites more than ever, according to a survey of 530 small business owners conducted by hosting and e-commerce services provider Interland.
The Fall 2004 Business Barometer of Online Activities was conducted during October and solicited opinions from a national sample of business owners, presidents and general managers of organizations with 500 or fewer employees, according to Interland spokesman Mike Neumeier.
Most of the respondents definitely fit the profile of a true small business. Interland reports that of the 530 participants, 86 percent report less than $1 million in annual sales and 81 percent of respondents reported having five or fewer full-time employees.
Seventy-seven percent reported that their business is healthier, more competitive and has better economic footing thanks to their Web site. More than half (55 percent) say having a Web site has helped through recent economic slumps. On the more tangible side, 81 percent said their Web site generates leads. "The killer application that this group is now turning to is online marketing tools and services that help them generate leads and convert those leads into sales," Neumeier said.
And based on the results of the Interland study, those leads translate into sales. When the group was asked to quantify the revenue generated by their Web sites in 2004, 28 percent reported that 26 to 100 percent came through online sales and 22 percent said between 11 and 25 percent of their revenues came from online buyers.
In the practice-what-you-preach category, 85 percent of small businesses involved with online sales themselves purchase business products and services they need online. The most popular categories include the following:
- Office supplies (76 percent)
- Software (60 percent)
- Travel (50 percent)
- Computer hardware (50 percent)
- Web-hosting/Web-site services (41 percent)
- Broadband/Internet access (37 percent), print and online publications (36 percent)
- Advertising/marketing placements (22 percent)
- Telephony services (17 percent)
- Data/databases (16 percent)
- Technical support (15 percent)
- Professional services such as accounting, marketing and legal services (9 percent).
Hooray for Holidays
A large majority of small businesses surveyed expect these to be happy holidays. Eighty-seven percent said they expect online sales during the 2004 holiday season will be as good if not better than last year's.
Thirty-four percent of survey respondents said they would prepare for the 2004 holiday shopping season by offering special holiday-shopping promotions, 32 percent reported they will engage in direct-marketing efforts and 32 percent said they would increase the number of items or services they sell. Interestingly, plans to increase online advertising were virtually the same as plans to increase offline advertising, coming in at 29 and 28 percent respectively.
Adapted from ECommerce-Guide.com, part of internet.com's Small Business Channel.
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