RealTime IT News

Survey: Small Biz Online Doubles Since 1998

The number of small businesses with a Web presence has nearly doubled since 1998, and millions more are projected to come online next year, according to results of a new survey.

The nationwide survey of small businesses (under 100 employees) was conducted for Prodigy Biz Corp., a subsidiary of Prodigy Communications Corp., and found that approximately one-third of small businesses currently has a Web presence -- versus 19 percent one year ago.

The study, conducted by International Communications Research, was commissioned by Prodigy Biz, which claims to be the third largest small business Web hosting company in the U.S.

Interestingly, the study found that while a rapidly growing number of small business owners recognize the global benefits of the Internet, 66 percent do not believe the Web offers significant opportunities to fuel their growth because they are local businesses. That of course runs contrary to Prodigy's view.

"Small businesses can market to more than just Main Street. Even their local presence can be expanded," said Prodigy Biz President Gary Remy.

"A toy maker in Peoria can sell more dolls in her hometown, her home state, or clear across the country. The Internet shatters geographical boundaries, giving all small businesses a virtual local and national sales force with just a few clicks."

When asked how the Internet would be used, small business respondents said their primary uses would be promoting to prospects (69 percent), followed by e-commerce (57 percent) and providing better customer service (48 percent).

Other top responses included competing with other businesses (46 percent) and communicating with employees (11 percent). Nearly 75 percent of small business owners claim cost is not a barrier to setting up a Web site.

Forty-four percent of small business owners claim they do not have enough staff for, and 41 percent report they do not have time to, maintain a Web site.

Overall, the study showed the likelihood of having an Internet presence declines significantly with the overall size of the company. Only 1 in 4 companies with fewer than 10 employees has an Internet presence. By contrast, 50 percent of those with 10 or more employees have gone online.