SME's are increasingly grateful for the part the sharing economy is playing in their businesses, according to the latest MYOB Business Moniter.
The Monitor is a bi-annual national survey of over 1000 small business owners and it has looked into the impact of this growing part of industry.
It found that the franchise sector was the most positive about the sharing economy, with 71 per cent of franchisors and 41 per cent of franchisees reporting a positive impact to their business.
Nearly a fifth (18 per cent) of small to medium businesses said the sharing economy was having a positive impact on their business, with only 7 per cent reporting a negative impact.
"This is an area of genuine growth and innovation in Australia - these new approaches are clearly creating their own markets," said Simon Raik-Allen, Chief Technical Advisor.
"SMEs are starting to embrace the sharing economy with almost one in three (31 per cent) saying they had used the services of an Uber driver, rented an AirBNB property or similar.
"We're starting to see a real buzz among our customers around outsourcing as well, so I'd be expecting growth in the virtual assistant and social and website management areas as operators increase their online operations."
The report also found that two thirds of SME operators are using online banking, with finance and insurance (76 per cent) construction and trades and manufacturing and wholesale (both 70 per cent) and retail and hospitality (69 per cent) taking up at least one of the host of options available to them.
The digital generation divide
SME owners are generally comfortable with the rate of technology change, with three in five operators saying the pace of technology innovation was 'about right'.
Digital use amongst small business owners is up, with some 48 per cent of respondents reporting having a website, up from 43 per cent in the previous Business Monitor.
However, there is a strong divide between generations, with Gen Y (75 per cent) and Gen X (66 per cent) the most likely to have an online presence in sharp contrast to operators aged over 70 with just 29 per cent.
"We are seeing something of a generational divide here with traditionalists aged over 70 (51 per cent) and Baby Boomers (23 per cent) more likely to state the pace of technology was too fast, compared with 13 per cent of Gen Y and 14 per cent of Gen X respondents," Mr Raik-Allen said.
"If as a business operator you are in any doubt about what a website can do for your business, operators nominated the top benefits as:
- Generated more customer enquiries or leads in general (46%)
- Enabled business to have more professional brand image (44%)
- Made it easier for customers to do business (40%)
"We know that people are increasingly starting their purchase journey with an online search, or discussing options in social media," Mr Raik-Allen said.
"We also saw an increase in operators with a social site increase to 43 per cent from 40 per cent in the previous Monitor.
"Operators with social media sites named more interaction with customers as the top result of that presence, followed by more customer enquiries and leads and increased appeal to younger customers. These are key insights for businesses looking for growth."
Retail and hospitality lead the way with digital
Retail and hospitality businesses are leading the way when it comes to online and digital operations, the report found. Retailers and hospitality operators are most likely to accept instant payments such as EFTPOS, ApplePay, PayPal or a mobile app with 44 per cent taking payments in this way (as opposed to 28 per cent overall).
"We know that late payments and cash flow are an ongoing concern for SMEs so it's great to see businesses discovering the immediate benefits of digital payments, which deliver funds quickly and securely. Offering these options allows customers to increase their spend at the point of sale and, when shopping online or with a mobile device, turn browsing into an immediate sale," Mr Raik-Allen said.
Retail and hospitality businesses were also the most likely to be using online accounting and bookkeeping solutions, with four in ten operating in this way. Some 32 per cent overall have adopted this method, with manufacturing and wholesale (38 per cent) and construction and trades (35 per cent) also taking their accounting to the cloud.