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More than half of UK businesses have little understanding of how to trade online

Updated: Apr 18, 2023

As UK businesses continue to operate remotely, relying heavily on digital strategies, new research reveals that many UK businesses struggle to fully understand and manage their digital operations.

More than half of UK businesses have little understanding of how to trade online

The study, carried out by Gareth Hoyle Digital Due Diligence, surveyed 1,000 UK senior business leaders and decision makers about their knowledge of their digital business operations. The research reveals that 54% have little to no understanding of how their online operations work, while 32% admit they are not familiar with online marketing techniques.

From web site development to back end connectivity with business systems such as ERP, warehousing and logistics, 38% of decision makers say they are unsure about making decisions about key digital services which drive their business.

As well as a lack of understanding and control of their digital operations, business owners show a considerable and worrying lack of understanding of digital marketing, often relying on “blind trust” of the digital partners and marketing agency network.

Despite the lack of clarity about their operations, a surprising 63% have already invested in digital marketing for their businesses or are planning to in the next three months. 

The research found that 46% of decision makers say motives to enlist the help of a digital agency is to increase sales or revenue, followed by 41% who’s objective is to improve brand awareness.

An additional 39% say they would hire a digital agency to improve site rankings, however only 19% can identify the ways in which google rankings are determined and in turn improve their site’s visibility.

More than 1 in 4 (27%) business leaders state that they are unable to understand terminology used by their digital agency.

A fifth (20%) of respondents admit that sometimes through lack of understanding they agree to progress with suggestions and recommendations made by their digital agency without querying.

Gareth Hoyle, founder and managing director of Gareth Hoyle Digital Due Diligence, comments: “It’s concerning to see that some businesses are now running largely digital operations, but without complete understanding and control of how everything works and interrelates. Investing in digital infrastructure such as websites and online marketing with very little knowledge and understanding of how it may benefit their business. Digital is more important now more than ever as this is something a vast majority of businesses are heavily relying on in the current climate to continue to operate day to day.

“It’s important to remember for businesses, that there is more to running an online business than digital marketing. A complete understanding of online operations is needed before decisions are made about marketing. This clarity allows for better decision making about digital marketing otherwise investment decisions can be thrown down the drain.

“Often private equity, administrators and other investors are acting blindly on good faith without a true understanding. No one wants to blindly make an investment decision yet our research shows that far too many decisions are being made without crystal clear clarity. Many firms undertake financial due diligence at a balance sheet level, yet few really have the experts in place to ensure the online operations and digital assets are in shape.”

More than half of UK businesses have little understanding of how to trade online


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