Small Firms Realizing Net’s Potential

A survey of business executives from across the Southeast US found that small business owners see their potential 1999 income from Internet activity doubling from 1998.

The survey was conducted by Wirthlin Worldwide in nine southeastern states for BellSouth®, and defined small business as those with revenues of less than $5 million annually. It found that small businesses are using the Internet to increase revenue by building Web sites to expand their business beyond geographic limitations.

“The next decade will see the Internet moving to a new stage, allowing an unprecedented range of transactional and e-commerce capabilities,” said Krista Tillman, president of BellSouth’s small business services. “The successful small businesses of the new millenium will need to create Web sites to maximize that transactional potential.”

The study found that of the small businesses using the Internet, 75 percent have or will soon develop a Web site for their business; more than 50 percent use the Internet to market their goods and services; and more than half conduct business outside of their local geographic area.

More than 70 percent of small businesses are taking advantage of the communications and research capabilities of the Internet. More than three-quarters (77 percent) use the Internet to conduct research for their business. Three-quarters use the Internet to keep track of new or trends in their industry. Seventy-one percent use the Internet to communicate with clients and customers.

“Most small businesses understand that the Internet can be used to maximize revenue and customer base growth,” said Ray Smets, BellSouth.net president. “Not only can the Internet help businesses grow, it can generate cost savings.”

Small business executives showed the most interest in using the Internet to order goods and services from suppliers and vendors (61 percent), and nearly 40 percent would like to use the Internet to process sales and orders. These numbers correspond to a recent survey by Cyber Dialogue, which found most small businesses have turned to the Net for business shopping. According to Cyber Dialogue, nearly every business with less than 100 employees that currently goes online now shops online for business goods and services, while the number that placed online orders jumped over 95 percent during the past 12 months.

The BellSouth study also found that many small businesses have not yet begun to realize the full capabilities of the Internet. Only 11 percent of businesses use the Internet to sell goods or services. Of those not currently using the Internet, 33 percent plan to do so in the future, but more than 61 percent perceive the Net as unnecessary to their online of business.

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