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Digital Enterprise is about using online processes and broadband technology to improve profitability, market share and productivity. The latest ABS release on Business Use of Technology underscores an issue for the majority of Australian businesses- most businesses in sectors that directly service consumers, do not engage with them in an online format. Access to reliable high-speed broadband with the roll-out of next generation technology may remove one barrier to uptake of digital enterprise, but it will take more than upgraded infrastructure to get small businesses taking advantage of online opportunities.

Free training and workshops facilitated through The Centre for eCommerce and Communications at University of Ballarat, are assisting regional businesses embrace digital enterprise. The initiative has been supported by government funding. Ballarat Business Centre has encouraged tenants and the wider business community to participate in workshops and mentoring on a variety of topics.

According to the CeCC Digital Enterprise Manager Gerrie Carr-MacFie, many small businesses are yet to get on board with the training and individual mentoring.

In such a tough economic climate it’s frustrating to see the reluctance of micro and small businesses to adopt digital marketing strategies, connect with consumers through online channels, and use eCommerce to systemise invoicing and payment processes. Successful businesses adopt efficient administrative and financial systems, hunt down prospective customers and actively engage with existing customers not just face-to-face, but online.  It is about going where the consumers can be found. Consumers are researching product via web and mobile devices, following trends and driving demand online via social media. By avoiding digital enterprise, Central Highland businesses are missing opportunity” said Carr-MacFie.

Quoting recently released ABS statistics, she advises wholesale businesses are far more likely than those in retail, hospitality or accommodation services to have a website, and far more likely to use social media. Speaking about these trends Carr-MacFie noted wholesalers dominate in online sales statistics.

Participation in free Digital Enterprise DIY Website and Social Media workshops and mentoring programs echo the ABS findingsIt is estimated 55% of Australian businesses now order their goods (presumably from wholesalers) online.”

When it comes to adopting Digital Enterprise, Carr-MacFie nominates locally owned Natures Cargo as an exemplar.

The Ballarat based wholesaler has invested in eCommerce systems and a practical website that works for their client base. Forget impressive images bells, whistles, and moving pictures. Company values are published on the home page and an easy-to-use online ordering and payment system is the focus. Facebook adds social media into the marketing mix without overstretching company resources.

Grasping opportunity and adopting digital enterprise practices should be strategic and planned, according to Carr-MacFie.

Natures Cargo recently sought independent advice and a review of their online presence from a Digital Enterprise mentor. It’s sound business practice to review operations and incrementally move with the times.  The Digital Enterprise review indicated it wasn’t a case of change or larger investment- but a matter of refining the Digital Enterprise strategy and ensuring the company could manage communications easily through the existing website and social media channel,” she said.

Ballarat Business Centre, Council and other stakeholders are joining with CeCC to entice businesses from all sectors in Ballarat and the Central Highlands adopt online strategies. Mentors with expertise in specialist areas such as business planning and start-up, social media marketing, online security, office administration, web-design and eCommerce are available to give a FREE three hour face-to-face consultation.  Details on mentoring sessions and group workshops can be found at www.digibiz.net.au.

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