The State of Digital Presence Among Australian SMEs: A Comprehensive Report

Navii Digital's research examines the digital capacity of Australian businesses, emphasising marketing assets and the potential benefits of incorporating AI. Key findings highlight areas for improvement.
First published on June 9, 2023
Last updated on January 8, 2024

Published in Economic Development Journal

This article was first published in the Economic Development Journal issue 2023 vol 16 no 1 (page 16).

Summary of the article

The article covers the research we have conducted over the years by Navii Digital and Tourism Tribe.

In our research, we analyse the online presence and digital capacity of Australian businesses. We conducted over 2,000 assessments of SMEs’ digital engagement health, providing insights into their marketing assets and recommendations. The Digital Engagement Health Check™ offers an objective assessment of core marketing assets and guidance on implementing the recommendations from the 57-point report. Our evaluation covers websites, search capabilities, online reputation, and social media effectiveness.

We emphasise the importance of these marketing assets for businesses to thrive in the digital age and leverage technologies like AI, automation, and video communications. We also highlight the potential benefits of incorporating AI, particularly ChatGPT, into marketing tasks such as content development and strategic planning.

Our research reveals key indicators and opportunities identified in the assessments, which can be found below. We found that many businesses lack essential features on their websites, including live chat, blogs, customer testimonials, and clickable phone numbers. There are also areas where businesses struggle with online reputation management, local search optimization, SEO, and social media marketing on platforms like Facebook and Instagram.

However, we found that SMEs in the tourism sector generally have higher scores compared to those in other sectors, possibly due to better support and digital infrastructure in the tourism industry.

Results and Opportunities

Please refer to page 16 of the Economic Development Journal for a more comprehensive overview of the results and opportunities.

About the data

  • 602 Navii assessments on SMEs from various sectors were conducted from November 2021 to November 2022.
  • 2,265 Tourism Tribe assessments on SMEs from various business types in the tourism sector were conducted from August 2021 to March 2023.
  • All scores shown on the charts below are out of a possible 100%, with 100% being representative of best practice.

Overall Scores

  • The tourism industry, compared to other sectors where SMEs make up the vast majority of businesses, is well supported with funded education and support programs and this includes Tourism Tribe having been engaged to deliver digital capability-building programs to tourism
    SMEs since 2015.
  • Its structure as a business ecosystem is coordinated and supportive in that dedicated resources are available to businesses through local government, regional trade associations, and State and Federal governments.
  • The tourism industry has a longstanding digital infrastructure to facilitate marketing and distribution including the Australian Tourism Data Warehouse and online travel agencies, which by their nature have been a catalyst for tourism operators to engage with digital technologies for the promotion of their business.

Key indicators and opportunities

In analysing the data Navii identified a small selection of representative indicators of the businesses’ adoption of digital best practices and meeting customer requirements. These indicators, selected from the comprehensive 57-point indicator dataset, also provide immediate opportunities to better meet the needs of the business’s customers.

Website Functionality

  • 87% of businesses lack Live Chat on their websites, missing opportunities for direct customer engagement.
  • Only 15% have implemented a blog, which can establish trust and credibility with the target audience.
  • 92% have not placed customer testimonials on their websites, hindering the purchase decision-making process.
  • Only 32% have clickable phone numbers for easy contact on mobile devices.
  • Only 22% include online videos, which are crucial for customer connection and competitiveness.
  • Only 39% have a Lead Magnet, limiting the use of email marketing automation.

Online Reputation and Local Search

  • Only 32% of businesses have a Google Business Profile that can be found.
  • Only 18% have at least 20 customer reviews.
  • 75% do not respond to all reviews, raising questions about customer service values.
  • Only 30% have uploaded at least 10 professional images.

Search Engine Optimisation

  • 77% of small business websites have been indexed by Google, leaving 33% invisible.
  • Only 13% have adequate content to be ranked effectively for relevant customer search queries.
  • Only 19% demonstrate skills to create web pages and content optimised for search engines.

Social Media Marketing – Facebook

  • 63% of businesses have incomplete Facebook About information.
  • Only 31% have set up Messenger service with Instant Reply, establishing trust.
  • 95% of businesses lack a Facebook strategy, resulting in a low return on investment.
  • Only 12% write posts that foster engagement.

Social Media Marketing – Instagram

  • 94% of businesses have not optimised their Instagram Bio.
  • 85% have not set up Instant Replies to Instagram messages.
  • Only 17% consistently post a minimum of twice per week.
  • 78% do not consistently add location tags to their posts, missing the opportunity for content discovery.

Proven Results in Improving Digital Capabilities

Tourism Tribe’s industry capability programs have shown proven results in improving digital capabilities for businesses. The data collected from these programs demonstrates that businesses can achieve significant improvements in their marketing assets in as little as three months. The data analysis, based on initial and secondary assessments conducted during the program, provides a reliable measure of success.

The results show an overall improvement of 11.4%, with the greatest improvements observed in Facebook (22.5%) and Instagram (19.5%).

Navii and Tourism Tribe offer comprehensive business support and training, enabling businesses to quickly translate new knowledge into practical skills and actions. The programs combine assessments, online and face-to-face education, personalised coaching, and expert support to deliver effective results for businesses.

For more information about the research or to explore opportunities for businesses in your network, please do not hesitate to reach out.

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