Internet can 'make or break' small firms at Xmas

The Internet may have irreversibly changed the business landscape for small companies, but their websites are about to buckle under the sheer weight of early bird Christmas shoppers.

UK sites that operate a checkout facility are to receive an average boost in traffic of 200% over the next month, suggesting trouble for slow, unresponsive or creaking websites.

The influx of visitors, predicted yesterday by Fasthosts, will represent half of the UK’s adult population, and overall, is tipped to spend £5bn online during the festive season.

Missing out on such a lucrative market looks likely for owners of small or mid-sized companies, whose websites are lacking infrastructure or riddled with errors, the web hosting company said.

The challenge for small companies to attract customers will be made all the more difficult because punters will inevitably flock to big-name retail websites, known for their reliability.

Research suggesting each Christmas shopper surfing the Web will spend an average of £208 should convince small businesses to act, Fasthosts hoped.

“As online competition increases, it amazes me that so many small and medium enterprises are willing to chance their Christmas sales,” said Stephen Holford, a director at the company.

“Ensuring that your website is supported by the correct infrastructure is vital to provide a quality buying experience. Having the right sort of hosting package is key if businesses are going to reap the benefits of the Christmas revenue window.”

The company hinted that small firms that choose its hosting service should expect not to be disappointed this Christmas, as technical support continues on Christmas and New Year’s Day, 24 hours a day.

Separately, large British companies this week backed the Internet, saying the ubiquitous medium has revolutionised their business.

Placing the Web more central to their operation has been a priority for three-quarters of firms, while four out of ten tweaked their Web services so they are now more customer-focused.

Investment in Internet-based technology by UK plc has reached £10billion a year, the survey by Google found, indicating each firm surveyed is now forking out about £300,000 in e-investment every 12 months.

However the large sums have not made companies complacent – 70% say they still have a lot to learn about reaching customers online, and most are prepared to throw up significant amounts of money to try and bridge the knowledge gap.


30th November 2006

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