DINESH De Silva (pictured), CEO and co-founder at Netstripes.com, is on a mission to change the way Australia goes about small business, arguing that if they want to grow they need to lift their digital engagement.
In a recent report compiled by Netstripes it was discovered that the majority of Australian small businesses aren't even close to reaching their full potential online.
After surveying 1000 small business operators for the State of the Nation 2016: Small Business Digital Enagement in Australia report, De Silva says that only 22 per cent were found to be digitally engaged through the use of a website, social media and e-mailing campaigns.
At a first glance that may not seem significant, but findings released by De Silva and his team suggest the opposite.
De Silva says that a lack of digital engagement could be largely responsible for up to $350,000 in economic shortcomings each year, referencing a research report compiled by Fairfax in 2013.
"According to the report in 2013, digitally engaged businesses earn $350,000 more per annum than those that were not digitally engaged, and they also grew 20 per cent faster," says De Silva.
"These are not big businesses either, this is talking about companies with between one to 20 employees."
From the findings released by Netstripes, De Silva also estimates that by increasing the amount of digitally engaged businesses by 30 per cent, it will create more than half a million jobs around the country.
"According to the statistics, digitally engaged companies hire on average two more people per year, and in Australia we have around 2.1 million businesses," says De Silva.
"If companies have the means to hire just one more person, not two people as per the stats, we expect it will create more than 685,000 jobs."
According to Netstripes, industries that could immediately reap the benefits from an online overhaul include professional, health and financial services. It also says the size of the business is not an issue as customers focus on quality and service.
"Nobody cares anymore whether a business is big or small, it only matters if they are credible, whether the website is accessible, whether it has good reviews and the price is reasonable," says De Silva.
"This is why the professional services industries are primed to make a huge impact, because it's more easy for those companies to compete like a big business online."
De Silva says the best starting point for any business looking to up their game online is with smartphone engagement, particularly through an optimised website and comprehensive social media tactics.
He also notes the importance of remembering that not everybody is an ideal customer, and that businesses should be clearly defining and consistently targeting key audiences online.
Aside from the basic elements including a website, social media presence and marketing e-newsletters, being completely engaged online also includes search engine optimisation, quality design, testimonial acquisition and cross-platform consistency.
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