Small business owners are guilty of "shocking" levels of website neglect, according to new research.
Cambridge-based web design and marketing firm Netflare conducted a survey at the end of 2007 covering 19 small business sectors.
The company discovered that 23 per cent of websites looked at had not been updated since their launch, making much of their content inaccurate or obsolete. The average age of a website was four years.
But perhaps the most revealing figure, given the huge growth in consumers using the internet to buy goods and services, was that a mere eight per cent of respondents had an e-commerce element on their sites.
"We were completely staggered by the tiny percentage of small business owners who were actively using their websites to generate sales," said Jon Beal, managing director of Netflare.
"Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that consumers spent £102bn in online purchases in the UK alone between 2005-2006."
Ironically, Netflare found that, when asked what they wanted from their websites, a majority said that the idea was to increase sales.
"It is beyond comprehension that small business owners are ignoring one of the fastest growing sales opportunities there has ever been," said Beal.
"It seems that, once small business owners have a website, they do not really know what to do with it so they ignore it."
Another revealing figure showed that 25 per cent of companies had no way of tracking how many sales were made as a result of people visiting their websites.
And over a third had no budget at all for regular website updates. Of those that did update their sites, the annual spend was around £250.
"The UK has the most active online population of any country in Europe with around 21 million of us logging on every day," said Beal.
"Some 72 per cent of those are using the internet to make purchases of goods and services. The fact that small businesses are neglecting this huge and growing marketplace is astonishing."
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