Want your business to make an extra £20,000 in 2017, One in five SMEs admits to having no online presence, costing thousands in lost earnings

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One million small businesses still haven't forged an online presence, losing the UK economy an estimated £8.4billion and each business up to £20,000 a year.

Research from non-profit organisation Do It Digital and YouGov has suggested that small businesses in Britain without any digital infrastructure are missing out on a total of £20.2billion in revenue each year.

Broken down, this equates to £20,000 per business in terms of increased revenue or efficiency savings, and could in turn help expand the economy by a collective £8.4billion.

The research found that one in four SMEs still doesn't have a website, while 40 per cent aren't on social media. And when asked, more than half without a website said they had no plans to change this in 2017, blaming lack of time and expertise as well as concerns over security.

Do It Digital is trying to change this: its mission is to get the 'final fifth' - the 20 per cent of SMEs who still aren't online - to embrace the internet this year. 

The Federation of Small Businesses, Google and eBay UK have all signed up to help reach the target, and launched their own initiatives to persuade small businesses to brush up on their digital skills. 

The 'Do it Digital' campaign isn't just targeting small business owners who have had no experience with the internet whatsoever. It also wants to help those who are already online to 'expand their digital horizons' whether that's through social media, building their own website or finding new marketplaces to sell through. 

The founders point out that becoming internet savvy is not just about making sales. It can also help with everything from recruitment and management to online banking and digital tax returns. 

Michelle Ovens MBE, director of Do It Digital, says: 'All evidence supports the belief that there are clear financial benefits for small businesses embracing digital. But we also know that many don't have the time or access to the expertise to take advantage of what's available to them. 

'We want to help change that, one step at a time, by showing that digital needn't mean a leap into the unknown by giving them access to support and guidance on how to engage in a way that is best for their particular business.'

As part of the initiative Google has promised to expand its digital skills training programme to make five hours of free digital training available to everyone in the UK, as well as offering specialist training for small businesses. It will also expand its Digital Garage to 100 cities and towns, with online courses for those who want to learn new skills from home.

Meanwhile, eBay has launched eBay for Business in the UK, an initiative offering tools, guidance and resources to small businesses looking to enhance their digital skills. 

The British Library, via its national network of Business & IP Centres, and SME support group Enterprise Nation, meanwhile, are aiming to train 10,000 and 20,000 small business this year respectively.

Digital inclusion charity Good Things Foundation has also pledged to support 10,000 small businesses through its community digital skills programme with Google. 

The Federation of Small Businesses has promised to support its 200,000 members with several of digital initiatives. The body is partnering with Facebook for the #shemeansbusiness campaign, which aims to inspire women to start their own business and improve digital skills, using webinars and videos.

It will also provide its members with free cyber-security insurance to drive confidence to expand online safely. 

Matthew Hancock MP, Minister of State for Digital and Culture, said: 'Digital know-how can help firms save money, increase profits and improve productivity, yet too many firms still do not use websites, trading platforms or social media channels.

'It is essential we take every opportunity to create the world-leading businesses of tomorrow, so I welcome Do It Digital's campaign and pledges from other organisations to increase digital skills in small businesses.'

Source: Eleanor Lawrie - Thisismoney.co.uk

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