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Aussie small businesses are way behind Asia in innovation

Sydney CBD. (Photo: PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)

If you’re an innovative small business owner in Australia, you’d be the ‘exception’.

When it comes to innovation, e-commerce, social media uptake and exports, which are drivers of business growth, Australia lags far behind our Asian counterparts with little activity or investment in these areas, according to a new survey by CPA Australia.

“We are being outperformed on innovation by a significant margin by our competitors in Asia,” said CPA Australia head of external affairs Paul Drum.

“While there are some very innovative small businesses in Australia, they are the exception rather than the rule.

“Australia’s small businesses are slow to take up technology and are significantly less likely to use social media for business purposes and earn revenue from online sales,” he said.

According to the report, only 6.7 per cent of Aussie businesses said in 2018 they would introduce something new to the market over the next 12 months, with the survey average across the ten Asia-Pacific countries surveyed at 20.8 per cent.

Roughly three in five (59.8 per cent) of Aussie small businesses didn’t record any revenue from online sales last year, while nearly half (44.8 per cent) said they didn’t use social media for business purposes.

But across Asia, more than 7 in 10 businesses are generating revenue online and more than 81.7 per cent of small businesses are using social media to promote their business.

And only 16.4 per cent of Australian small businesses said their investment in technology had seen improved profitability, while an average of nearly one in two Asian businesses are seeing higher profit margins after investing in technology.

Drum pointed out that small businesses needed to improve their “digital capability” in order for the sector to grow, with policymakers playing a particular role in this regard.

“With the federal election campaign now in full swing, it would be most encouraging if we saw some election promises that proposed government assistance for Australian small businesses that helped them better embrace technology and help them build their digital capabilities,” he said.

“The future federal government must also factor the overall low business confidence reflected in these survey results into their policymaking decisions and policy implementation,” he said.

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