Telstra report finds gap between customer expectations and small business realities

Elizabeth Barry 9 February 2018 NEWS

telstra

The report was launched to coincide with the renewed Telstra Small Business Awards.

Despite 62% of consumers saying they would stop considering a business if they can't find information about it online, only 50% of small businesses have a website. When only counting sole traders, this number drops to 36%.

The statistics, revealing the gap between what customers want and what small businesses are giving them, are from the 2018 Telstra Small Business Intelligence Report and based on a parallel survey of over 1,000 small businesses and over 1,000 consumers.

The importance of an online presence is just the tip of the digital iceberg. The report found nearly half (49%) of customers say the ability to buy or book online is why they continue to use a particular business. However, only one-quarter of small businesses say selling or taking bookings online is important for customer retention.

For businesses that do sell online, there is also a mismatch between what payment methods are being offered and what payment methods customers want to use. 70% of customers prefer to use PayPal but only 45% of businesses offer it, while 67% of businesses offer direct transfer despite only 10% of customers wanting to use it.

"These mismatched prioritised suggest some small business choices may be driven by their own convenience rather than that of the customer," the report said. "Or that they have failed to update their options as technologies and trends have evolved.

Online was also important when searching for businesses, with 83% of customers saying search is "important" or "very important" when finding or considering a business online. But only 26% of small businesses currently use SEO and only 9% use search engine marketing (SEM).

"You could look at this and say there are some big gaps," said Telstra Group Executive, Consumer & Small Business Vicki Brady. "But I say there are some big opportunities."

To highlight these opportunities, the report was released at an event celebrating a revamp of the Telstra Business Awards. Along with changes to judging criteria and new categories, every business that enters the awards will receive a business benchmark report to see how their business is tracking compared to other entrants.

Three businesses took the stage at the event in Sydney today (two current and one previous award winner). All had digital-first strategies.

Telstra Small Business Award winner Jen Geale from Mountain Bikes Direct runs a remote team which includes developers and customer support agents in locations such as Bright in regional Victoria and Colorado in the US. She encouraged others to enter the awards and use it as a chance to examine your business.

"[The application process] is like running a fine tooth comb through your business," she said.

Director of Hancock Creative Alecia Hancock, a fellow Telstra Small Business Award winner, also said the application process caused her to make changes.

"We got to the section about OH&S, and we'd just moved to a new office, and we thought, we don't have this. My operations manager went out and bought fire extinguishers and fire blankets and all that," she said.

The report, while highlighting a significant gap between customer expectations and business offerings, provides strategies businesses can employ to future-proof themselves and increase their customer base. You can read the report in full here. Nominations are also currently open for the Telstra Small Business Awards 2018.

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