The founder of travel website lastminute.com was in Gateshead today inspiring local business owners to get online in order to boost their profits.
Baroness Martha Lane Fox CBE was speaking at an event hosted by Lloyds Banking Group and the digital charity, Go ON UK in association with Google.
She revealed that over a third of small medium enterprises (SMEs) have no website, but claimed the benefits of having a 24/7 online presence are “immense”.
“We talk down this country too much, but actually we have the highest percentage of e-commerce in the world,” she said. “However there is a skills gap. We want to ensure nobody is left behind and that businesses can access these skills. No question is a stupid one when it comes to technology.”
Speaking at The Sage Gateshead as chair of Go ON UK, Baroness Fox added: “No business can really compete if it isn’t able to use technology well. We have an opportunity to supercharge SMEs and become a world leader in our digital capability.”
Research by the charity revealed that SME’s with a website are growing four to eight times faster than those who don’t. Over three-quarters claim they save time, while 62% attract more customers or donors and 51% report increased sales.
Danny Mitchell, regional fundraising manager of the Stroke Association, is one local success story. He told how using Twitter had almost doubled participation in its zip wire fundraiser and boosted donations from £12,000 to £27,000 in a year. The charity now has 39,000 Twitter followers.
“Charities have to be run as a business,” he said. “And social media is essential to recruit and interact with supporters. For example one fundraiser is doing 40 challenges for her 40th birthday and managed to get 40 celebrity retweets, which has helped her raise £10,000 so far.”
Also speaking was Gori Yahaya, digital marketing manager for Google Juice Bar, who revealed that 16% of businesses with a website were leaving it to stagnate as it had no functionality. He shared his tips on creating a user-friendly website and making it easier for potential customers to find businesses.
Following the seminar, businesses and charities could attend interactive web workshops and get advice targeted to their business.
Eva Eisenschimmel, group culture director for Lloyds Banking Group, said: “Small businesses play a key role in the UK economy, so it’s vital that they are able to utilise all the tools available to help them take advantage of growth opportunities and remain competitive on an international level.”