Thursday, 30 July, 2015

Computer-chip

How are Hunter businesses doing at engaging with the digital economy? With evidence that digitally-engaged SMEs are more likely to be growing revenue and hiring staff, HRF researchers are excited to see the results of our latest Hunter Region Businesses and Digital Technology report.

HRF have been investigating household and businesses’ use of information and communication technology since 1998 in the Hunter and 2003 in the Upper Hunter. We’ve seen local consumers follow the rest of Australia and the western world to join the online shopping revolution and have been encouraging local businesses to engage more fully with this burgeoning digital economy.

Up to this year our annual survey has shown Hunter businesses lagging their national counterparts in doing business online. In 2014, just 57 per cent of Hunter businesses able to access the internet had a dedicated website, lower than the national figure for small businesses (64%).

This year’s results are much better, with the June 2015 results showing a significant jump in the number of internet-connected regional businesses with a dedicated website – up to 71 per cent, which brings the Hunter into line with the national figures.

More Hunter businesses are adopting smart phones, notebooks and laptops to engage their customers in 2015 and a higher proportion are now advertising and taking orders online.

Half of the Hunter businesses surveyed this year were using social media to market their businesses, with this rate exceeding the national average for small to medium enterprises (SMEs).

While the results are better in 2015, we need to see the figures continue to trend upward.

The key barriers cited by Hunter business owners to engaging online were uncertainty over the business benefits and a shortage of time or resources. However, expenditure on ensuring that your business is digitally-engaged should be seen as an investment in your future success.

The June 2015 Future of Australian Jobs report, published by the Australian Committee for Economic Development (CEDA) predicts that more than five million of Australia’s jobs could disappear within the next 15 years as technology revolutionises our working lives.

The CEDA report cites US research showing that 65 per cent of primary school aged children in America will end up in jobs that haven’t been invented yet and 47 per cent of jobs in the US will be computerised within one or two decades.

With the job loss rate is predicted by CEDA to potentially be much higher in rural and regional areas as technology makes labour-intensive work redundant.

The take-out message from HRF’s latest Hunter Economic Breakfast speaker, social media guru and futurist Nick Bowditch, is that you don’t need to go it alone in getting digitally savvy with your business. A growing number of businesses and consultants are able to assist you to develop an achievable digital strategy.

At HRF we would encourage Hunter businesses to address two regional issues by employing a digital ‘native’ – a young ‘Generation Y’ or ‘millennial’ – the under 30s who have grown up in a connected digital world.

Anthea Bill is a Senior Researcher for HRF and author of 2015 Hunter Region Businesses and Digital Technology report. Visit www.hrf.com.au to subscribe to see the full results

Keep an eye on our monthly news to keep your finger on our HUNTERpulse results.

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