Nearly half of all New Zealand’s small to medium sized businesses (46 per cent) are now online, in response to increased adoption of ultra-fast broadband and greater satisfaction rates amongst digitally connected organisations.
Latest MYOB Business Monitor findings - in surveying 1,000 Kiwi SMEs - report that more than half (52 per cent) of those businesses with an online presence said having a website generated more customer enquiries and enabled the business to have more professional image (51 per cent).
Meanwhile, 52 per cent said the use of a social media site, such as Facebook, allowed for more customer interaction.
“For almost half of all New Zealand business to have an online presence shows local business owners understand the importance of digital technology and new ways of doing commerce,” MYOB head of small business, Ingrid Cronin-Knight, said.
“Customers now expect to be able to find a product or service online. For most businesses, a website is a must, as is having a social media presence, for reaching and engaging with current and potential customers.
“The number of businesses who are now online has jumped from less than a third to almost half in just five years. I expect to see that number keep growing as the importance of being digitally connected is only going to increase.”
UFB access limited - but growing
While more than half of SMEs surveyed (56 per cent) believe an ultra-fast broadband (UFB) connection would positively benefit their business, just 32 per cent of local businesses report they are utilising fibre services.
Connectivity has jumped significantly since the last survey in March, with the most connected city now Auckland (38 per cent, up 12 per cent), followed by Wellington (36 per cent, up eight per cent) and Christchurch (32 per cent, up eight per cent).
Cronin-Knight said medium sized businesses (20 to 199 employees) are the most likely to be connected to UFB, with 57 per cent reporting their workplaces were connected.
In regards to industry, the finance and insurance sector is the most connected with just under half (46 per cent) utilising UFB.
Satisfaction with access and connectivity on the rise
Satisfaction with internet speed and reliability has also risen, sitting at 47 per cent - a seven percentage point increase, however dissatisfaction still sits at a stubbornly high 31 per cent with 30 per cent dissatisfied with the cost of their plan.
On the whole, businesses in Auckland are the most satisfied with their internet access (41 per cent), while dissatisfaction is highest in Otago and Southland (42 per cent), which is surprising given Chorus’ Gigatown initiative in Dunedin.
Delving deeper, 40 per cent of business owners in Wellington and 39 per cent in Christchurch are happy with their internet access.
Cronin-Knight said while the roll out of high-speed broadband continues across the country, it’s clear some areas are still waiting to reap the benefits of faster, more reliable connections.
“Access to high-speed internet is imperative, and has been for some time now,” she explained. “It’s really a resource that every industry, across the country, should be able to tap into.
“Cost-effective, reliable internet infrastructure is an absolute must for all businesses, wherever they may be, in order to keep up with new ways of attracting and servicing customers.”
Businesses keen to innovate
In the last 12 months, more than a third (37 per cent) of businesses surveyed said they had upgraded their computer hardware or software while 30 per cent opted to invest in machinery and equipment.
Employee training was also on the radar of many SMEs, with 21 per cent investing in staff development and 19 per cent updating their business strategies and management techniques.
However, there are barriers to innovation, highlighted by SMEs throughout the country.
While 23 per cent stated their business did not need to innovate, 22 per cent said cost was an issue, 20 per cent also said government regulation was a problem and 16 per cent reported a shortage in skilled personnel.
Cyber security still an issue
With more businesses becoming cyber aware, the survey highlights that 59 per cent of New Zealand SMEs are concerned about one or more cyber security risk areas.
“While this is an 11 percentage point drop from the last quarter, these statistics are still significant and highlight increasing appreciation amongst small business owners around the importance of good cyber security,” Cronin-Knight added.
For Cronin-Knight, the most concerning aspect of cyber security for local businesses was hacking, with 39 per cent reporting they were worried hackers may be able to gain access to their data.
“It’s great that SME operators are taking their data security things so seriously, and while numbers have dropped across the board, clearly SMEs are still concerned,” she added.
“It pays to make sure that every business, no matter how big or small, is pro-active in ensuring the safety of their data, whether it be making sure you have up-to-date, high quality security software, not using simple or obvious passwords or keeping an eye out for scams.”
Cronin-Knight said it is apparent that businesses are staying abreast of technology and as a result, are doing better across the board.
“In order to ensure that New Zealand SMEs stay up to date and connected, we need to addresses their concerns around cyber security and focus on the roll out of UFB to every area across the country, in order for everyone to have the same opportunities,” she added.
“If every business has the opportunity to adopt the newest technologies, then New Zealand’s economy will continue to diversity and be even more competitive and internationally recognised.”