Small Business Internet Use Keeps Expanding

The percentage of small businesses accessing the Internet surpassed 52 percent in 1999, and that number will climb to more than 70 percent by 2003, according to research by International Data Corp. (IDC).

Once confined by geographical constraints, IDC’s 1999 US Small Business Survey found that small businesses are now leveraging the Internet to expand beyond local boundaries. A number of small businesses are also recognizing the benefit of promoting themselves via the Web. In 1999, 2.1 million US small businesses had a home page or a Web site. That number will increase 30 percent to 2.7 million in 2000.

“Although more small businesses are experimenting with Web promotion of their products and services, the market is far from saturated, and there is still plenty of room to grow,” said Raymond Boggs, IDC’s VP of Small Business Research. “Almost 13 percent of US small businesses have yet to invest in a PC, never mind add Internet capability.”

IDC’s report found that e-commerce presents the most significant growth opportunity for a wide range of US small businesses. The number of these companies selling goods and services online will grow from 850,000 at the end of 1999 to 2.9 million in 2003.

“The Internet has tremendous reach, and small businesses are beginning to realize the potential of this channel,” Boggs said. “By 2003, nearly half of online small businesses will be selling over the Internet.”

Other findings from IDC’s report include:

  • The growth in the number of new small businesses online is evident across all company size categories. Even the smallest of firms are stepping up to the Internet opportunity
  • The majority of small businesses still access the Internet through a single PC shared by all users. This sets the stage for local area network growth, especially as small firms seek the benefits of high-speed broadband Internet access
  • Small businesses that use the Internet tend to be more advanced users of computer technology in general. The technology “heat seekers” are paving the way, as they advance through an ever-growing number of available Internet services.

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