Christmas on the Web

Online sales operations are now major earners for small businesses, according to a new survey

Half of business owners with online operations are counting on the holiday season to bring in up to 10% of their total 2003 revenues, according to an e-commerce survey of 260 outfits conducted by Interland, an Atlanta-based Web hosting service that specializes in small- and midsize clients. All the business owners who completed the survey are Interland clients with Web sites up and running.

A little more than half -- 56% -- of business owners surveyed attribute some portion of total annual sales to their online presence, and slightly less than half -- 46% -- say that a portion of their holiday sales will be conducted online. Of those expecting to see online holiday sales, 50% estimate those transactions will represent up to 10% of annual sales, and 22% hope online commerce will account for more than 50% of annual revenue.


  Among businesses not yet selling online, 26% plan to add e-commerce capabilities to their Web sites within the next two years. Of those now selling online, 45% offer no more than five products via the Web, and 40% sell 21 or more products online.

Of the business owners surveyed, 37% update their sites more than once a month, and 38% say they are unlikely to do business with a company that doesn't have a Web site of its own. The survey also found that 68% of respondents use e-mail on a regular basis to communicate with customers.

Among survey participants, 33% said they had been in business 5 years or less, 25% reported being in business for 6 to 10 years, and 42% have operated more than a decade. Company size ranged from less than $250,000 to more than $5 million in annual revenue, and 57% of respondents reported having five or fewer full-time employees.

By Karen E. Klein in Los Angeles

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