Small businesses generate £36bn from t'interweb

A survey has suggested the UK's small businesses are making impressive gains online. Although some are slower than others...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 26 May 2011
England’s green and pleasant land may not as tech-tastic as, say, the bright lights of Silicon Valley – but it turns out that UK businesses are doing rather well when it comes to generating revenues from the web. According to a survey by business advice site knowthenet.org.uk, small businesses in the UK are generating £36bn a year online. But they could arguably be doing an awful lot more - and there are still some that have yet to switch on a computer...

That £36bn might sound impressive, but it actually only constitutes 2.4% of small business’ annual turnover - suggesting that SMEs are still lagging behind their larger counterparts when it comes making the most of the money-making opportunities offered by the web: apparently, big companies get 18.7% of their turnover this way. Of the 500-odd small businesses interviewed, 51% said they make money online, while 46% said they don’t (we’d love to know what the extra 3% do...).

Obviously, though, making money isn’t the only thing for which the internet is useful. In fact, in a separate poll by YouGov, more than half said they use it to ‘win new business’, while 50% said they use it to help grow their business. A quarter said they use it to keep customers informed via email marketing, and another 24% use social media (a surprisingly low figure, you might think).

Still – in an age where toddlers learn the word ‘iPad’ before they can say ‘mummy’, it’s a strange fact that there are still businesses without an online presence at all (not even Facebook). Of those, almost half said they ‘don’t see the business case’, while more than a third said their business ‘isn’t big enough’ to warrant an online presence.

Naturally, knowthenet (vested interest, anyone?) is keen to point out the arguments for getting a website. ‘With nearly seven in 10 households on the web… businesses should be exploring ways to grab their share,’ it points out. We’re in agreement on that one. Particularly if ‘not being big enough’ is the best argument businesses can come up with against it…

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