Research by Yell and the University of Southampton School of Management has found that SMEs could beat larger companies for online sales, with two fifths unable to tell the difference between a small retailer and a larger company online.
In a series of in-depth, blind focus groups, more than 200 consumers were asked to compare websites of smaller and larger competitor firms, without knowing which was the bigger enterprise. In 64% of cases, the focus groups chose the smaller firm as their preferred supplier. When calculated on an individual basis, 51% chose the smaller enterprise.
Richard Hanscott, CEO of Yell UK, said: “Our unique research illustrates how digital marketing has torn down the traditional barriers to promotion, allowing small businesses to compete with larger players like never before.
“No matter what the industry, investing time in an effective digital presence will open your business up to a wider market and help attract new customers.”
Only a quarter of consumers (25%) rated company size as an important influence when looking for products and services, with 81% saying easy-to-find information as very important to making a purchasing decision and 78% describing a prominently displayed address or location as an important influencer.
Hanscott added: “Contrary to perceived wisdom, consumers are not reassured by dealing with a large firm or brand online. In fact, the opposite is the case.
“The factors driving consumers’ online behaviour offer a unique advantage to SMEs over their larger competitors. Customers are influenced by trust in the company, ease of access to information and locality.
“This presents a clear opportunity for smaller firms to give themselves a competitive edge via their online presence, by presenting the human face of the business and promoting their ability to deliver a more personal service.”