THE BLOG

Britain's Great Digital Divide

25/09/2015 16:00 BST | Updated 25/09/2016 10:12 BST

Our research reveals that 60%of the UK's very small businesses don't have a website. Very small businesses (defined as those with five employees or less) make up one fifth of the UK's small business presence, and the fact that so few are online is worrying. Why is it a cause for concern? These very small outfits, the independents who are fighting to be successful and boosting the economy as they go, are essentially rendering themselves invisible to the online world.

Think about when you pop into the local newsagent to pick up milk; the family-run pub you frequent; the nursery where you drop your children off before work. These are very small businesses we as customers don't think twice about, and it's up to them or their competitors to win us over for good. Yet over a third (35%) of those surveyed without a website felt their business was simply too small to warrant one.

Now, imagine a local street market packed with shoppers ready to buy. The market sellers scream for their attention, strike up conversations and build relationships so they not only win business that day, but keep customers coming back - even perhaps referring their friends and family.

This street market is now online, and websites act as the bellowing market seller. These interactions occur online and across our entire online personal network, all via various digital devices and platforms. As a very small business owner, it can be easy to underestimate this power. And as we spend more time on smartphones, businesses are having to redefine their framework for communications even more. This is their opportunity to become part of the conversation.

Need a suit dry cleaned but don't know where to go? A quick search online or even a message to your friend via an IM will help find you a dry cleaner. The result may not even produce the closest service, instead providing information on the one with the highest visibility or the easiest to contact online. If they want to compete and grow in this information age, small businesses need to be online.

In fact, our research has revealed that 54 percent of those without a website fear their business will fail to grow within the next three to five years. Meanwhile, 60 percent of businesses with a website believe they could grow by anything up to 50 percent in the same timeframe.

Clearly, there's a chasm of confidence between those that are online and those that aren't. So why do businesses without a web presence fail to build one? Beyond those feeling too small to require one, one in five (19%) cited a lack of time was preventing them from creating a website.

Time is a much-valued currency in the small business world. But it's important to invest some of it online; one stat from our survey that stands out is that 56 percent of businesses experienced increased growth in the two years after their website launched.

How are we working to remove the perceived obstacles?

• Online availability of creative content, tutorials, and seminars

• Affordable prices: a very popular .co.uk domain is now on sale for less than a cup of coffee

• 24/7 Customer Care means a small business owner can call our consultants, anytime, to get direct feedback and tips on what to do.

We work with small businesses to help make them more visible online, and the survey outlines the desire for easy to use, affordable and simple to use technologies to lower the learning curve for anyone.

We're striving to make it easier for small businesses who are short on time to get online, and these results will only drive us to ramp up the campaign. Small business owners work far too hard for their businesses to be invisible. The opportunity to grow in this digital world should be too tempting to put off.