Many small businesses still lack an online presence, sadly, missing out on opportunities to market their businesses. To understand the benefits, barriers and preferences for creating an online presence, Verisign recently worked with Merrill Research to conduct a global survey of 1,050 small businesses with an online presence about their experiences and gained some interesting insights.
Having a website and domain name, the survey participants said, allows for more control and are a good way to support e-commerce/online sales. And they were viewed as benefiting communication, customer reach plus ease of use were all given as the main benefits for why websites were chosen as a company’s primary online presence.
In China, websites were credited by respondents for their capability to distribute information quickly. Chinese participants were also likely to cite the convenience of anytime access that a website allows. The low cost/expense of a website is mentioned in China more than any other country (17 percent vs. 0-3 percent elsewhere). Two out of five French participants mention that a website allows them to establish/spread corporate presence/identity.
The second most popular means of online presence cited by participants was social media, primarily Facebook, although Twitter has a strong presence in Turkey, India, and the U.K., and in China Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo were the most popular sites. For the small number of small businesses using social media sites as their primary online presence (13 percent), the reasons most often cited for this choice included cost, convenience and familiarity (i.e. it is easier and cheaper than maintaining a company website; and, in many cases, is the method they are most familiar with).
The key findings of the survey were:
- small businesses that choose to have an online presence most often choose websites over social media to represent their company: Globally, 72 percent of participants reported having a website as their primary online presence to represent their businesses, followed by social media (13 percent)
- when asked which methods of an online presence their small businesses employed overall, the highest rates of website usage were in Germany (91 percent), the U.S. (88 percent), and the U.K. (88 percent). India reported the lowest rate at 67 percent, while the global average was 82 percent. The second most used method, social media, was reported by 49 percent globally with the highest usage in China (63 percent) and the lowest usage in France (41 percent)
- small businesses believe websites make their business look more credible and are critical for success: Globally, two-thirds (65 percent) of small businesses with an online presence said they elected to create a company website because it makes their company look more credible, and 60 percent said that a website is critical for a small company’s success. Overall, 82 percent of small businesses with an online presence would recommend investment in a website to other small companies in their industry
- the preferred domain extension for small business is .com: In the U.S., nine out of 10 (89 percent) small businesses with an online presence prefer a .com domain name for their company website. Globally, that number is 61 percent
- in Germany, .de, was preferred, with .com coming in second. In France, .com and the local ccTLD, .fr, are equally preferred. Respondents outside the US had a much higher interest in their local ccTLD than those in the US did, with only one percent of US respondents preferring .us
- more than half (54 percent) of U.S. respondents said they would choose a .net domain name to support their company website if their preferred TLD (most often cited as .com) was not available
- small businesses have not caught up with the mobile trend: Globally, only 21 percent of small businesses with a website have a mobile version of their website, with China reporting the highest percent (45 percent) and Germany the lowest (11 percent)
- perceived and actual barriers to creating a small business website often don’t match: Half of the global small business respondents thought technical know-how would hinder the creation of a small business website, but only 27 percent reported that as an actual barrier. Respondents in India and China perceived the security of their website to be the most concerning, but found ongoing maintenance was actually the stronger barrier once they actually created a company website. In fact, ongoing maintenance was the most cited actual barrier by all respondents regardless of location
- small businesses are missing out on inexpensive opportunities to claim their brand online: Overall, two-thirds of respondents said their small businesses are using a branded email address. Nine out of ten (92 percent) of these small businesses say they feel that branded email makes their business look more credible, yet the 63 percent without branded email didn’t know it was an option for their company even if they do not have a website. About half (51 percent) of small businesses that currently have an online presence were aware that they could invest in a domain name and have it point to an online presence hosted by another service, like a social media site. Awareness of this option is highest in China (75 percent) and lowest in the U.S. (38 percent).
For more information about all of the findings from this research, read the report: Benefits and Barriers of Bringing a Small Business Online: Perspectives From Global Small Businesses [pdf]. To learn more about other small business trends, visit www.VerisignInc.com/SmallBiz.