The CPA Australia survey found that, compared with 11 countries, Australia was least likely to begin or increase online sales during COVID-19 and to use social media for business.
Australia was also least likely to invest in technology in 2020, to profit from their investment in technology and to review cyber security in the past six months.
In addition, Australian small businesses were the second least likely to earn revenue from online sales and third least likely to offer customers the choice of digital payment technologies.
Unsurprisingly, most businesses in the region reported that COVID-19 had a major impact on their business. However, CPA Australia noted that the consequences appear to have been felt slightly more strongly in Australia.
Only 22.3 per cent of Australian small businesses grew last year — the second lowest result of any market surveyed. Further, only 8.3 per cent of Australian small businesses added employees — the lowest result.
In addition, despite the impact of COVID-19, 36.1 per cent of Australian small businesses reported they made no “major change” in response to the pandemic, the highest result of any market surveyed.
For example, Australian businesses did not access government support, negotiate rent reductions or loan holidays, delay taxation payments or reduce capital expenditure.
CPA Australia chief executive Andrew Hunter labelled the results disappointing.
“Other markets made major in-roads on digital transformation during the pandemic. Clearly, Australian small businesses need more help than they’re getting to leave the digital dark ages behind,” Mr Hunter said.
“There is a clear link between innovation and performance. Our survey shows that growing businesses are more likely to use new technologies, e-commerce and social media. These are areas in which Australian small businesses performed poorly.
“This digital divide will make Australia’s road to economic recovery longer and tougher than it needs to be. If Australian small businesses don’t transform, sales will go to more innovative competitors overseas.”
CPA Australia surveyed 4,227 businesses in 11 markets about their operations and plans for the report.