John Allan, FSB national chairman told FoodManufacture.co.uk the figure was further evidence of the growing importance of the internet to small-to-medium-enterprises (SMEs) across the UK.
“To help address this digital skills deficit we’d like to see more investment in training from both the government and local enterprise partnerships,” he said.
“Small firms spend on average £3,500 a year on technology and practical back-office training to help them get the most out of this investment can make a big difference.”
There needed to be more action from the government to deliver super-fast broadband to small businesses, Allan claimed.
A whopping 94% of small firms saw broadband as critical to their businesses, yet only a little more than half (56%) had access to super-fast services, compared to 75% of domestic consumers, he added.
“If we are to see a growth dividend, small businesses need broadband infrastructure today that is fit for purpose, with fast download and upload speeds, as well as the accompanying training to take full advantage of the available technology,” Allan said.
More than half of the public (55%) found it difficult to support local small firms because often these businesses weren’t online, the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) claimed.
Its figures showed that as many as 2M (39%) sole traders and small companies were missing out on business because they had no online presence.
Over half of customers (52%) went straight to search engines when looking to buy from local businesses, nearly double the number that asked for word-of-mouth recommendations, BIS claimed.
Business and enterprise minister Matthew Hancock said thousands of potential customers were searching online for local small businesses and without an online profile businesses would lose out.
“To make sure consumers get the best deal and small businesses spread their nets far and wide, the government is investing in expert advice to help them do more online,” he said.
“I am committed to making the UK the best place in the world to start up and grow, and this is integral to achieving that.”
The government will award £2M of funding to 22 local enterprise partnerships to help SMEs increase their digital presence, he added.
It has also launched a campaign to bring small business owners to the new resources and advice on how to do more with their business online at greatbusiness.gov.
Finally, government is working in partnership with Go ON UK to provide resources chosen specifically for small businesses on its web page.
Eileen Naughton, md of Google UK, said it was crucial companies like Google and the government invested in programmes that showed small businesses how easy it was to get online and start reaping the rewards of the digital economy.
“The internet is playing a key role in helping companies of all sizes across the UK reach new customers, manage marketing expenses and use data-driven consumer insights to help their business grow,” she added.
Key findings of the research:
- 73% said it was very important that they were able to find a company online if were are going to give it their custom.
- 57% agreed if they couldn’t find any evidence of a business online they were reluctant to give it any business at all.
- 39% had bought goods and services outside of their local areas because they couldn’t find local companies on the Internet.