At one time, e-commerce was just for big companies. But with the ready availability of broadband and Web hosting services that help even non-tech savvy SMBs create and maintain Web sites, size doesn't really matter anymore online.
According to an IDC study released in late 2007, the number of SMB retailers selling stuff online has grown from 21 percent to 32 percent over the past two years.
In fact, the Internet has helped some SMBs revive their struggling businesses. A USA Today story published on Yahoo News relates the experiences of one such SMB, a New Orleans antique shop whose sales took a huge hit after Hurricane Katrina.
The shop owner spent about $5,000 to hire pros to design a Web site and e-newsletter and took advantage of free Google software to monitor traffic to the newly created site. The result: Sales grew 23 percent in 2007 and are up 19 percent so far this year, with online and foreign sales accounting for much of the growth.
One of the store's owners calls the Web site "a godsend," while the other says it's a "tremendous tool." They are expanding the site with a travel blog and online videos that will give folks around the world a gander at products in their store.
Surprisingly, 47 percent of U.S. SMBs do not have Web sites, an oversight that Ray Boggs, IDC's president of small and midsize business research likens to not having a telephone. He says:
If you're not Internet-active, you're at a competitive disadvantage.
Web sites aren't the only technology being employed by SMBs. A senior marketing manager at Intuit mentions that more SMBs are using GPS devices to track drivers delivering goods or making service calls, for example.
SMBs adopting new technologies are accounting for a bigger share of tech spending this year, as bigger companies stung by the slowing economy halt or delay new tech projects.