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AUGUST 05, 2003
WHEN Carolyn Glover started her gourmet food advisory and personal shopping service she relied on her phone and fax to connect with her suppliers and customers to drive orders through the business.
Now Home Gourmet is one of the many small businesses successfully riding the e-business bandwagon, with over 80 per cent of its customers using the website and ordering online.
The Yellow Pages E-Business Report released last week revealed that small business is reaping the rewards of online and technological investments.
It found that 56 per cent of Small and Medium Size Enterprises claimed to have recovered their investment spend in technology. The annual survey showed that 22 per cent of SMEs claimed a return on investment in excess of 50 per cent.
For businesses like Home Gourmet, their outlay in technology and the internet may have been their best investment yet.
Ms Glover was enthusiastic about the benefits of the internet for her business, especially its website.
"We communicate with our database on a weekly basis through email and our website," she said. "The website allows 24-hour access to our products and services. It also enables the customer to know exactly how much they are spending. Clients appreciate this level of control.
"Our website is an integral part of the business and not an addition -- our revenue model is completely dependent on us covering all costs."
Increased productivity was a benefit of Home Gourmet customers ordering online.
"When clients order online, their order goes immediately into our back-end system and this saves us up to 20 minutes per order in processing time," she said.
While the E-Business Report showed the proportion of online businesses that had placed more than 5 per cent of their total orders online had slightly declined (from 51 per cent to 47 per cent), businesses whose customers predominantly used the internet were investing in better models of online ordering.
Ms Glover is keen to make the on-line ordering model as easy and effective as possible by introducing new technology.
"Home Gourmet was originally launched with the ability to use an order form that is accessible from the website and could be emailed back to us," she said.
"On August 18 we will be launching a complete shopping cart facility that will take us to that next step."
The E-Business Report found that the majority of respondents (68 per cent) were satisfied with the overall performance of their e-commerce activities.
The proportion of small businesses with a website increased marginally during the past year, from 34 per cent to 36 per cent. Medium-sized businesses with website penetration rose from 71 per cent in 2002 to 82 per cent in 2003.
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