Key takeaways

  • Australian small businesses can unlock $49.2 billion in economic value by embracing mobile and digital platforms over the next 10 years.
  • Small businesses based in regional areas could account for 53% of this potential economic benefit.
  • Digital and mobile technologies could revolutionise small businesses across the mining, finance and insurance services and health care and social assistance sectors.

There’s no denying that technology can accelerate productivity, create value and streamline costs. But small business owners often assume that only tech giants and major corporations based in capital cities can reap the transformative benefits of the digital age.

However, Small Business: Digital Growth, new PwC analysis commissioned by Google, found that this myth is preventing Australian small businesses from realising their growth prospects and future economic gain. The research, which is powered by PwC’s innovative Geospatial Economic Model (GEM), discovered that embracing digital and mobile technology could help small businesses unlock an additional $49.2 billion of untapped economic potential over the next 10 years.

Location, location

Although all regions and industries stand to profit from new technology, PwC modelling, which is based on economic analysis that explores both differences by States and Territories and Commonwealth Electoral Divisions (CED), highlights some compelling patterns across industries and regions. The research attributes 53% of technology’s potential economic benefit to small businesses located beyond Australia’s metropolitan centres. It also found that as few as 17% of Federal electorates could represent nearly half of the potential boost to the private sector.

Interestingly, these findings throw up new insights into the different rates at which technology can fuel growth from state to state. For instance, a small business in the Northern Territory could generate an average of $90,000 in additional value by capitalising on the web while a Western Australian small business could spark an additional $85,000 in growth.

Meanwhile, Queensland stands to gain approximately $700 million more than Victoria despite its lower population, a finding that may point to the higher proportion of SMBs in the mining sector who have yet to adopt digital and mobile platforms.

From an industry perspective, small businesses in the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector could create 17% more value and the mining, finance and healthcare industries are best placed to prosper by using digital and mobile technology to achieve commercial goals. The latter isn’t surprising given the size and importance of these sectors in light of the wider economy.

Closing the gap

For Australian small businesses, the advantages of mobile and digital technology go beyond simply engaging with customers on social media or building a website to market services. They can revolutionise traditional supply chains and distribution channels, deliver seamless customer experiences and create agile working models that maximise output while keeping overheads low. For example, crowd-sourcing sites such as Pozible and Indiegogo are emerging as a powerful alternative to investors, cloud-based bookkeeping services like XERO are taking the pain out of administration and marketplaces such as Sidekicker, Airtasker and Freelancer are eliminating hefty hiring costs by allowing business owners to outsource tasks to suppliers around the world.

But despite the disruptive nature of mobile and online technology, ensuring that Australian small businesses are digitally empowered poses challenges of its own. PwC research suggests that supporting time-poor small business owners to explore platforms and technologies that could streamline their business, fostering the knowledge and training associated with digital implementation and improving access to broadband infrastructure around the country will play a critical role in helping the Australian small business sector bridge the divide between digital possibilities and future growth.

Learn more about how Australian small businesses can unlock their economic potential by exploring Small Business: Digital Growth.




Duncan Stone

Duncan Stone is a director in the Innovation & Disruption and Economics & Policy practices at PwC Australia.

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