Going digital could generate £8.4 billion annually for offline businesses

A fifth of the UK’s small businesses lack an online selling platform where can people can purchase the goods and services they offer, and new research suggests it is severely limiting their growth potential.

According to eBay, having such options could provide an £8.4 billion boost to the UK economy, with firms able to increase revenue by around £20,000.

Greater support for digital expansion is needed for such a move, but the report claims many small firms are not prepared to take a risk.

Embracing e-commerce could open up a wealth of opportunities for smaller firms, and especially for independent specialist stores that operate on small budgets and tight margins.

YouGov data reveals that 23% of the firms surveyed for the study had no website, while 40% lacked any sort of social media presence.

Nearly three quarters meanwhile had no online marketplace, meaning they could be missing out on potential sales.

Of those that do lack a website, 57% said they have no plans to create one in the next 12 months, with a lack of expertise and time, alongside security fears, cited as barriers to such a move.

The Government has actively looked to support digital growth in the UK so that businesses can enhance their productivity, output and profits, but a lack of skills is limiting what is possible.

Selling to overseas countries and to others in the UK means businesses can expand their potential revenue streams, which form a key component of growth plans.

Boosting skills should also lead to job creation and growth in the long-term, but currently firms are at risk as they are not up-to-date with the latest trends.

Many small firms and start-ups can ill-afford to miss out on potential finance and can be adversely affected should something go wrong or their situation change suddenly.

In such an instance, it’s imperative that businesses explore their options to see if debts can be cleared, management processes altered or alternative forms of finance found. If all options are exhausted, then liquidation might be the only available route.

By Phil Smith

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