Published: May 16, 2011 Last Updated: September 02, 2021

How Does Small Business In Australia Use The Internet?

How does Small Business in Australia use the Internet?

I noticed when I got back to blogging, that my last blog post was about the Sensis eBusiness Report 2009, so I thought it would be a good idea to get the latest report and see what’s changed. This report was compiled by Sensis in September 2010 and involved telephone surveys to 1800 Australian Small Businesses.

Once again, this has been a very interesting read and once again leaves me shaking my head in bewilderment at how many Small Business Owners just aren’t serious about growing their business. I’m a firm believer that if you aren’t growing, then you are going backwards as everyone else around you grows.

To help show what I believe are the relevant points in this report, I will look at 4 key areas:

  1. Use of Business Websites
  2. Use of eCommerce
  3. Use of Mobile Phones
  4. Use of Social media 

The use of Business Websites

Firstly let’s look at what percentage of business and individuals use websites for specific tasks. Please note: the percentage in brackets is how much this has grown from 2009.


  • Look for information on products and services 91% (-1%) 
  • Look for suppliers of products and services 88% (same)
  • Pay for products and services 81% (+2%) 
  • Access online catalogues 79% (same) 
  • Place orders for products or services 79% (same)

Individuals (private use)

  • Look for products and services 82% (+4%) 
  • Pay for products and services 65% (+3%) 
  • Ordered products or services 64% (+3%) 
  • Use social networking sites 56% (+15%)

So as you can see, a large percentage of both businesses and individuals use websites to help them make a buying decision and then to actually make the purchase - and this is growing every year.

Yet only 60% of Small Business have a website and amazingly 29% have no intention of getting a website. So if you have no intention of getting a website, are you really serious about growing your business?

Furthermore, of the 60% of the Small Businesses that do have a website, 73% felt it increased their effectiveness through helping people find them, promoting online and getting more business and sales. Interestingly, more focus was on being found and promoting than to increased business and sales. I would argue that as a small business, increased business and sales should be your primary objective to having an effective website.

The use of eCommerce by small business

eCommerce is basically using the Internet to buy and sell products and services (this may not necessarily be through your own website). Firstly, let’s look at the percentage of small business that use the internet to buy and to sell.

To Buy

  • Look for information 86% 
  • Place orders 74% 
  • Pay for Orders 76%

To sell

  • Display Information (eg. Have a website) 60% 
  • Take orders 58% 
  • Receive payments 70%

Of those businesses that do take orders on the Internet, 47% say it accounts for over 10% of all their sales (with 13% saying it accounts for over 50%).

So in a nutshell, we have 74% of businesses using the internet to buy goods and services, but only 58% of them actually taking sales from these businesses online. Overall only 62% of businesses are trying to sell online and 34% have no intention. Once again, this beggars belief. Is it just me, or is this a huge opportunity?

A common excuse I get is “my business only sells to local people and the internet is only for selling to broader markets”. Yet, the survey found that of those businesses selling online, 86% sold to the local market and 52% sold within their own state (52% sold interstate and 27% sold overseas). So this makes this argument obsolete I would suggest.

Use of Mobile Phones

The survey found that 96% of Australians have a mobile phone and of these people 41% use the internet on their phone. So what are they using the internet on their mobile phones for?

  • Looking for maps and directions 67% 
  • Looking for information on products and services 56% 
  • Looking for suppliers of products and services 45% 
  • Ordering products and services 17% 

So as you can see, Mobile Phones are becoming just as important as normal internet. This is increasing at phenomenal speeds as more of us get Smart Phones and Tablet Computers. But I will go into more on this in a future blog.

Use of Social Media

This has been quite a growth area for several years now and looks to continue into the future. It’s also an area that I think still has some learnings on the best way for Small Business to get the most out of it. I personally believe that it’s a great strategy for some businesses, but not all. So don’t get caught up by someone trying to sell you an expensive program to set up and manage your social media.

But let’s look at the statistics. Overall 56% of Australians use a social networking site and of those people, 52% look at it at least once a day. However, only 10% of business use social media, but of those, 60% believe that it has a positive impact on their business.

So this shows that Social media is definitely something that any small business serious about growing and achieving their maximum potential needs to embrace. But as I prefaced this section, it’s not for all and doesn’t just include Facebook and Twitter.

So does your business have a Digital Strategy?

Are you getting the most out of the Internet? Or do you stick your head in the sand and hope it will just be a passing phase and it won’t work for your business?

If I can briefly put in a plug for our services, you may be confused to hear that we are not interested in those businesses that don’t have a website or have no intention of getting one. I originally believed that I could help all small business, but after much pain realised that some people you just can’t help. So my objective here is not to try and convince those of you with no website (or intention to get one) that you should, but to help those of you already with a website work out the best way to make it work for your business. So if you’re not happy with your results (or worse still, don’t know your results), contact us to find out more.