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Small businesses missing opportunities online


March 27, 2013
By Canadian Garden Centre & Nursery

Mar. 27, 2013, Toronto — Only 46 per cent of small businesses have a
dedicated website, and less than half of those businesses sell products
and services through their site.

According to a recent RBC small business survey, just 48 per cent of
the businesses with a website allow customers to shop online.

"With
the majority of consumers choosing to research and shop for products
and services online, businesses without a web presence are missing a
significant opportunity," said Jim Mulligan, national director, of
retail for RBC Royal Bank. "Businesses need to be visible where
consumers choose to be, so investing in an online strategy is
fundamental to attract new customers and stay competitive."

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In
fact, 56 per cent of the entrepreneurs in the survey rate finding and
keeping clients as one of the top business challenges that they will
face over the next year, yet only 41 per cent of those surveyed promote
their business using a dedicated website.

According to Statistics
Canada, more than 80 per cent of the Canadian population is online.
Moreover, a report by the Boston Consulting Group predicts that Canada's
Internet economy will grow 7.4 per cent annually through 2016. Although
this represents a significant opportunity for small businesses, 20 per
cent of entrepreneurs admit that keeping up-to-date with technology is
among their top challenges.

"It is always challenging for small
merchants to stay abreast of new technologies and to find the capital to
grow their independent businesses," said Diane J. Brisebois, president
and CEO of Retail Council of Canada. She added that RBC in collaboration
with Retail Council are investing in tools and resources to assist
small merchants in capitalizing on the benefits of an online presence.

"Small merchant online and social media strategies can result in market growth and greater profitability," noted Brisebois.

When
it comes to social media, only 39 per cent of entrepreneurs surveyed
say that they use social media to promote their business.

Mulligan added that engaging in social media offers many positive benefits for entrepreneurs, citing the following examples:

  • improved market awareness;
  • more lead generation opportunities;
  • increased relationship building opportunities with existing customers and prospects;
  • better reputation monitoring; and
  • additional traffic to existing web sites.

The
RBC survey also found that 38 per cent of businesses that sell via
their company website generate over 25 per cent of their revenue through
their online sales. Twenty-two per cent generate more than 50 per cent
of their revenue online.

The online survey of 1,004 small
business owners was conducted from Aug. 9 to 20, 2012, via the Ipsos
I-Say Online Panel. The margin of error is +/-3 per cent, 19 times in
20.


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