By Claire West

Six out of 10 small businesses are missing out on their share of a £20 billion-a-year web shopping boom because they are not selling their products and services online, according to research by www.bttradespace.com.

The survey found that the number of SMEs with a website rose by 20 per cent between 2007 and 2008. However, just 13 per cent of small businesses consider websites integral to marketing strategy and only three per cent use their site to communicate with consumers.

Mick Hegarty, head of www.bttradespace.com, said: Small companies can benefit greatly by exploiting the marketing and sales opportunities afforded by the internet.”

“During these challenging times, more people than ever are using the web to shop because of the choice, convenience and cost savings it provides. A professional and credible online presence can open up a world of opportunities and provides a great platform to engage with customers.”

The Voice of Small Business report, commissioned to discover how SMEs can best communicate and conduct business in the current economic climate, found that 92 per cent are aware of blogging but just under one in five (18 per cent) use it for business purposes.

The research also found that the smallest companies (up to five employees) were least likely to interact with other local businesses with just under half (47 per cent) admitting to not knowing the companies in their area.

Hegarty said: “The internet opens up a global marketplace for SMEs helping them to compete and prosper.”

“Free business social networking websites and social media tools like blogging and podcasting can transform a company’s fortunes at the click of a button.”

Entrepreneurs can showcase goods, enhance their online marketing profiles, maintain an ongoing dialogue with customers, and share information and expertise with like-minded companies.”