Businesses in regional Australia need to embrace the digital world now
New research by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows online shopping grew by a massive 70% in December over the same period in the previous year. In a recent media release, The Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman Bruce Billson says small businesses in regional and remote areas of Australia now have more reasons to digitise, with the announcement of expanded internet coverage and lower wholesale prices to regional areas.
“Fast and reliable internet is an essential service to most small businesses, especially those in regional and remote parts of the country,” Mr Billson says.
So why aren’t regional businesses improving their online presence, particularly at a time when more consumers are shopping online?
Slow internet speeds and lack of access to the internet has been a contributing factor in the past, but with so many regional consumers choosing to shop online, SME’s, particularly those in regional areas need to keep up. COVID19 has not only changed the way we interact with others, it’s also changed the way we shop.
The biggest reason many business owners don’t digitise their business is that they just don’t know where to start. There’s so much chatter in the digital marketplace that often many business owners give up before they start.
Rebel Connect, a family-owned business operating since 1996, set out to assist businesses understand the digital world, creating a program called the ‘7 Steps to More Customers’. Each business is assigned a personal account manager who works behind the scenes with a team to get their business ‘digital ready’ take advantage of online revenue streams or just assist with the ongoing marketing to build brand awareness and develop online leads.
The 7 Steps program sets up the tools needed to effectively operate online including a functioning website, Google My Business and social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram and then work them through the 7 Steps program to become visible to more people using digital marketing (reach).
Rebel Connect PL Group General Manager, Cheryl Jowitt designed the 7 Steps to More Customers program to help businesses save money.
“We found that many of our clients wanting to digitise their businesses just didn’t know where to start.”
“We’ve heard many stories about businesses that are getting sold $1000 website builds from overseas companies and being left out in the cold when they realise that they are being held to ransom for support on their website or even worse, their business domain name.”
“Cheap doesn’t mean good. As the saying goes, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.”
Ms Jowitt explained that many of their clients come to them with stories of being ripped off, left with unusable websites, no support and no domain name. “We have a team of people working on the Gold Coast that are doing some pretty fantastic work supporting customers online and by using the 7 Steps program we can explain how the job is not done once the website is finished”, she said.
Once a website is completed, the next step is making it visible online to allow it to work effectively and bring in leads for the company. A lot of businesses don’t value search engine optimisation simply because they don’t understand how important it is. Without it, a website is like a business card sitting on a dusty shelf.
The latest research from MYOB shows that SMEs with advanced levels of digital engagement are 50% more likely to grow revenue and earn 60% more revenue per person.
Over the last year, we’ve seen a very slow take up of grants issued by state governments to help regional businesses get online and market their products and services. Thousands of dollars in support has gone begging because regional business owners don’t have the time or the resources to apply.
At a time when regional towns are losing customers to neighbouring larger centres, losing more customers to online businesses from outside the region and overseas may mean that more businesses will go to the wall. It’s time local business groups stopped investing in short term measures and start taking steps to help members understand the need to become competitive within their own community.
You may be the only jeweller or shoe store in town, but if you are not online and not actively reaching or engaging local customers, you are just one of millions of businesses worldwide competing for the same local dollar.
Cheryl Jowitt is the cofounder of Rebel Connect which operates Rebel Digital, a digital marketing agency that assists businesses develop and implement a marketing strategy to bring in customers. Cheryl is also Director of the Rebel Radio Network which operates the Rebel FM & The Breeze commercial radio networks in Australia.
To find out more about the 7 Steps to More Customers program and how we can help you take the first step, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for our free, no obligation introduction and evaluation.