More words than action from small businesses over e-business, says survey

Sage said that 59% of those surveyed said e-business will open up new markets and opportunities. A similar percentage are keen to be recognised by their customers and suppliers as e-businesses.

However, despite increasing awareness and understanding of the benefits of e-business, only 28% of UK SMEs actually have a web presence, compared to 31% in France and 37% in both Germany and the US.

Also, only 5% of UK SMEs have fully functioning websites, enabling them to trade online.

The findings are part of a comprehensive international research project on SME attitudes to e-commerce, commissioned by Sage.

Other findings include:

SMEs are using the Internet as a marketing or promotional tool rather than for online trading ? only 5% of the UK business community has a website which can handle credit card transactions.

Concerns over Internet security are becoming less of a barrier to SMEs considering an online presence, except in France, where 53% of small businesses still consider it an issue.

Traditional delivery of accounting software via a desktop is still preferable to versions delivered over the Internet with only 37% of UK SMEs considering using online versions (France 23%, Germany 23%, US 29%)

Germany demonstrates its renowned reputation for efficiency with only 13% of German SMEs citing lack of time as a reason for not getting into e-commerce

74% of UK businesses believe that children understand the Internet better than

Paul Stobart, Sage?s chief operating officer commented: ‘This research suggests that SMEs have recognised the business benefits offered by e-commerce and know that they should establish an online presence to remain competitive.

‘However, universal practical issues remain which are preventing many of them from taking full advantage of these benefits. Providers of e-commerce products and services aimed at the SME market need to inspire trust in their customers by making it as quick and easy as possible for them to get up and running on the Web as well as offering ongoing support.’

This first wave of findings is from a tri-annual piece of research conducted by NOP on behalf of Sage. The survey questioned 200 SMEs in the UK, US, France and Germany (800 in total).

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