An increase in the number of businesses running their own websites in the past three months has not been matched by online activity, a new survey has found.
Solutions provider MYOB in its July business monitor found that the proportion of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with a website has risen slightly to 38 per cent, compared with 36 per cent in March.
However, the survey of 1004 SME operators found that those using online transactions, email marketing and social media declined to 24 per cent, down from 31 per cent.
"The decline in popularity of online business activities was completely unexpected, particularly that of online marketing and social media," MYOB chief executive Tim Reed said when releasing the survey findings on Tuesday.
He said many social media tools, such as basic LinkedIn, were free and can be used to raise the profile of a business and to communicate with customers.
However, 37 per cent of those businesses with a website reported an increase in customer leads, and 34 per cent said it improved their customer interaction.
A third said they enjoyed a better conversion from these leads to sales, with 32 per cent increasing their revenue as a result, and 30 per cent saying it enabled them to compete more effectively.
"With Australia's internet audience reaching 16.2 million in May 2012 it surprises me that so many business operators have not yet realised the value of having a simple website containing their contact details," Mr Reed said.
"Websites are a great way to attract new customers and to keep existing customers loyal, which can only have a positive effect on cashflow."