Online boom for small businesses dampened by trust issues

New research validates the perceived surge in online activity among Australian small businesses as a result of the COVID pandemic and the consumer preferences of the younger generations.

Nevertheless, Crazy Domains’ The Online State of Australia’s Small Businesses 2021 report also reveals that this online growth is being hindered by issues of trust. Almost a third (30 per cent of small-business owners) said that while the number of customers from online sources has increased, half of them cited trust as the key barrier when connecting with their customers. And, as more consumers are purchasing online, more than half of them are looking to small business for reassurance their data is secure.

“Digital transformation hasn’t been caused by the pandemic, but it has certainly accelerated it,” Dreamscape Networks (the owner of Crazy Domains) Chief Executive Officer, Mark Evans, said. “Endless digital solutions have been tested and scaled during the pandemic.”

The study also noted that free or low-cost delivery of products purchased online is a greater influence on consumers’ purchasing behaviour than reviews or ratings; exchange, return and refund policies; and delivery times. Having a website also rates highly but complex navigation, difficulty finding important information, perceived lack of security, and slow site loading times account for a combined 81 per cent of why consumers left a website.

“First impressions count, and Australian consumers have strong views on what’s professional and what’s not,” Evans explained. “Conveying credibility through digital channels can be tricky but there are some key signals consumers quickly pick up on that ultimately determine whether they will make a purchase.

“It starts with a trusted domain name,” Evans continued. “In Australia, .com.au domains are trusted vastly more than any other domain. Six in ten Aussies think an excessively long domain name is unprofessional, with many consumers also rejecting domains with numbers and dashes.”

Evans also noted that the look and function of the website is critically important in building trust as seven in 10 consumers expect a professional website when they’re shopping online, not to mention the higher the income, the higher the expectations.

“A professional website – that keeps consumers on your website – means having simple navigation, easy access to important information, and decent site loading times,” Evans opined.

The research also noted that nearly half of Australian consumers are confident that their personal data is secure when making a purchase online. However, six in 10 consumers are also looking for some form of reassurance on a website’s security, such as a privacy and data use policy or verification by an independent party, like the SSL padlock to boost their confidence.

“Half of all small-business owners identified building trust with their customers as their greatest limitation, after the availability of capital, and sales and networking,” Evans said.

“It’s a perennial challenge for small business, regardless of how quickly they became profitable and across every demographic, including, age, gender or identification with a minority group.”

The report also noted that consumers prefer going to websites over social media when learning about a new business and deciding whether to make a purchase, a preference that could be compounded by Facebook’s issues in Australia.

“Most small businesses already felt they were getting a better return on their investment from their website than social media, which is consistent with Australian consumers also preferring websites when learning about a new business and when deciding to make a purchase,” Evans said.

“The situation with Facebook has reminded small-business owners that their profile on social media is not something they own or can control, in contrast with a website. It’s subject to the social platform’s profit goals and government regulations.”

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