Online tools helping businesses stay open through COVID-19 disruptions but skills gap creates an issue

Lucinda Longcroft, Director of Public Policy for Google Australia

As Australians face ongoing challenges due to COVID-19, new research has found that many are using online tools to help them stay open through disruptions including lockdowns. 

The survey attracted more than 400 Australian small and medium business (SMB) owners to participate in the research by research agency Pollinate for Google Australia.

Google Australia and Pollinate research findings

The Google Australia and Pollinate study found that almost two thirds of SMBs (64%) have increased the use of digital tools within their business as a result of COVID-19.  

56% of SMBs that use digital tools say they’ve been instrumental for keeping their business open and operational through disruptions caused by COVID-19 including lockdowns.

Of the 9 in 10 SMBs that use digital tools, more than 85% reported that digital tools have positively impacted their business at this time.

Some of the main benefits cited included operational tasks (26%), streamlined processes (26%), more online sales (23%), more targeted communications to customers (19%).

Despite this, many businesses are unsure how to effectively use digital tools including websites, online business profiles, video conferencing, online ads, and e-commerce platforms. 

Two thirds of SMBs (67%) experienced an issue when using digital tools for their business.

The biggest issues include a lack of awareness of the digital tools available (25%), how to implement a digital strategy (22%), and hiring staff with the necessary digital skills (21%). 

To help close the digital skills gap, Google Australia hosted an online Grow with Google digital skills session for small businesses in Sydney – which was launched by Federal Communications Minister and Member for Bradfield, Paul Fletcher.

The sessions covered topics including how to establish and build a strong online presence, use website analytics to make data-driven decisions, and attract new customers

Comments on the Google Australia and Pollinate research

“Australian businesses have continued to face tough challenges due to COVID-19, and we know the internet and digital tools have been a lifeline for many of these.”

“The research shows a very real gap with many businesses unsure how to use digital tools.”

“It also points to a considerable opportunity with businesses using digital tools seeing significant benefits,” said Lucinda Longcroft, Director of Public Policy for Google Australia. 

Minister Fletcher said, “Businesses of all sizes need a good online strategy to be successful. Grow with Google helps local businesses as they develop and execute such a strategy.”

“This is something that the Morrison Government is focusing on, with almost $1.2 billion being invested in Australia’s digital future through the Digital Economy Strategy.”

Grow with Google aims to create opportunities for all Australians to grow their skills, careers, and businesses with free tools, training and events. It includes an online learning hub accessible from anywhere, on any device, with hundreds of helpful training modules.

To support industries hit hard by COVID-19 disruptions, special Grow with Google events have been held for retail and travel businesses in recent months.