Experts today revealed Australia’s small businesses could be reaching more customers and making more sales, more often, at the launch of the 2018 Telstra Business Awards.
Drawing on the 2018 Telstra Small Business Intelligence Report, Telstra Executive Director, Small Business, Brendan Donohoe said the evidence showed small businesses were missing critical opportunities to meet the wants and needs of the contemporary consumer.
“Digital technology is helping create big opportunities for small businesses – but only for those who embrace it,” he said.
“Our report shows small businesses are trying to meet customer expectations but are at times falling short, often acting on ‘gut feel’ or relying on traditional ways of doing business.
“The gap between what customers want and what small businesses are delivering shows up in how customers find businesses, how they prefer to interact and what keeps them loyal and coming back.
Mr Donohoe said while digital technology was a key opportunity for Australia’s small businesses to be more competitive and find more customers, change was required.
“Where we see a real opportunity for some small businesses is being open to change, safely putting a toe in the water with digital technology and in return, delivering a great experience for customers,” he said.
The report was released as part of the launch of the 2018 Telstra Business Awards, which has been updated to reflect the changing nature of Australia’s small and medium business sector and the significant role technology plays in business.
“Now in its 26th year, the Telstra Business Awards offer entrants a range of benefits, including a comprehensive Business Benchmark Report, and access to exclusive networking events,” Mr Donohoe said.
“And this year, we’re delighted to have refreshed all aspects of the Awards program, from entry process to awards categories and the assessment criteria. The changes will help provide even more value to the business community and help the Awards remain a prestigious mark of business excellence,” he said.
Jen Geale from 2017 Telstra Queensland Micro Business Award winner, Mountain Bikes Direct, said the Awards provided her with invaluable credibility and more reason to trust her business, gaining her new customers, and access to strong and valuable networks.
Based on their past experience in retail, the Co-Founders of Mountain Bikes Direct opened a purely online store, as a response to a shift in consumer buying habits. Ms Geale, who believes e-commerce has helped to set the business apart in the market, said the use of technology cannot be over-estimated.
“Everything we do is in the cloud. So, we can have staff in multiple locations in Australia, and overseas. We’re now able to hire the best people, no matter where they are located, and have them working all sorts of odd hours according to when our customers shop,” she said.
Nominations for the 2018 Telstra Business Awards are now open. To recognise an outstanding small and medium business, visit telstrabusinessawards.com.
For a free copy of the 2018 Telstra Small Business Intelligence Report, visit Smarter Business™.
2018 Telstra Small Business Intelligence Report – key insights:
Online is the new word of mouth:
76% of business owners consider ‘word of mouth’ (referral from others) to be the most significant driver of new sales, but for 71% of consumers, it comes behind online search and online reviews.
Build it and they will come:
A mere 36% of sole traders have a website when 89% of customers say they want a website that’s easy to navigate and 48% of customers say they will stop considering a business if it doesn’t have one at all.
Customers are on the go
A third of e-commerce businesses (63%) do not have a mobile-friendly website, while one in two (48%) of customers are shopping on a mobile device at least once per week.
A rewards program is important for more than one third (39%) of customers, but only a minuscule 14% small businesses offer one.
Face to face is out of fashion
Three times as many customers want to communicate via online chat than businesses that offer it (28% versus 9%). Three quarters (74%) of small businesses like to communicate face-to-face but this is the preference for only 33% of customers.
Need it now or never
Half (54%) of businesses expect on-demand delivery as part of the e-commerce experience in the near future, but the vast majority (76%) of businesses have no intent to use this technology.
What’s new to the Telstra Business Awards in 2018:
Entry form- A new online entry form will make the process simple to use and valuable for the business. Nominate and enter now at telstrabusinessawards.com
Business Benchmark Report and ongoing support- Each entrant receives a comprehensive Business Benchmark Report with actionable advice and insights, as well as access to exclusive networking events.
Judging criteria- Innovation and Technology usage underpins the six other criteria categories of strategy and vision, customers and marketing, operations, people and culture, social responsibility and financial acumen.
Award categories- Categories in 2018 are:
Emerging and Energised: this is for the newcomers (less than 3 years in operation) that are just starting out but already making a huge impact.
Small and Succeeding: for businesses that are punching above their weight. The category is open to businesses with an annual turnover of less than $3 million and under 200 employees.
Medium and making waves: For businesses that are kicking goals in every area. The category is open to businesses with an annual turnover of over $3 million and more than 200 employees.
Social change maker: For organisations that are making a social impact and driving change. This category is open to not-for-profit, social enterprise and profit-for-purpose organisations.
Alumni achievement: For previous Telstra Business Awards winners and finalists that have taken their achievements to the next level after their win.
People’s Choice Award: An award, voted by the people, for businesses that have gone above and beyond.
Media contact: Matthew Wu
 The 2018 Small Business Intelligence Report is informed by two surveys: one with more than 1000 small businesses and the other with more than 1,000 consumers.