The small business accountant perspective - the savvy consumer and internet use
There has been so much talk recently about Australia having a two speed economy. As a small business accounting specialist I can certainly confirm that this is the case at present.
Whilst it would seem that the big end of town, especially the mining sector, is being driven by overseas demand from the emerging nations to our north, it is the local small businesses that are suffering. The reliance on local customers is hurting many small retail businesses.
It would seem that the average consumer in Australia is holding back on quite a few areas of discretionary spending (concerns over interest rates and job security being the main driver here) as well as being much more savvy about shopping around for the best possible deal. The media has made quite an issue of consumers buying online, especially from overseas, but recent studies suggest that this is still a relatively small percentage of the market. Of course this depends on what industry you are in, but blaming internet purchases for a downturn in sales is not yet justified for most businesses. However, I have no doubt that the savvy consumer is using the internet to research the potential purchase online so when they do turn up at the local retail store armed with a plethora of product knowledge, the retailer may feel pressured to submit to the customers wishes on price just to get the sale.
So, as a small business owner what can be done? Having a strong web presence is a great start. You don't necessarily need to be selling products or services on line, but the internet and social media is a great way to manage your marketing campaigns and creating brand awareness in your target market. Operating any small business without an online presence and social media plan, will only cost you lost sales to those businesses who are already focused with a plan for this area of their business.
There are many other aspects to running your small business in lean times which can all be discussed with a small business accountant but, from experience, I can assure you that the businesses that are able to survive the difficult times will only flourish in the good times.