By Deborah M. Todd
Small businesses hoping to make waves in the Internet economy are sending out leaky canoes in a race against powerboats, according to a recent report.
The Score Association, a Herndon, Va.-based nonprofit organization of small business counselors and mentors supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration, released figures last week showing only 51 percent of small businesses have websites, despite the fact that 97 percent of consumers search for products and services online.
Of the small businesses that did have websites, 82 percent were not using social media, 70 percent provided no call-for-action to encourage spending, 93.3 percent were not compatible with mobile devices, and 27 percent didn’t even include a phone number to reach the business.
The disconnect between small firms and the growing number of consumers who vet bricks-and-mortar businesses based on their online presence could be keeping entrepreneurs from millions of customers, said Bridget Weston Pollack, Score vice president of marketing.
“It varies by industry, but the number of people in the United States who shop online is around 75 million. If a company or a small business doesn’t have an online presence, they are missing a huge percentage of the population that could be shopping at their store,” she said.
Mrs. Pollack said the results weren’t all that surprising.
“In general, at Score, what we find most are small business owners seeking help with their online presence simply because they feel like they don’t have time. They’re working 24 hours a day. There aren’t 27 hours, and they don’t feel like they have the time to commit to building their websites,” she said.
Business obligations aside, some entrepreneurs shy away from Internet commerce and technology in general because they lack Web savvy and are content to stick to the craft or service that allowed them to set up shop in the first place, said Sarah Mayer, co-founder of East Liberty-based small business consulting firm UpTo Know Good.