Nearly half of SMEs in the South West lack the digital skills that could drive billions of pounds of growth.
The latest Lloyds Bank Business and Charity Index reveals that 48 percent of SMEs lacked basic digital skills within their organisation, while only 22 percent of South West businesses are gaining a transactional benefit from trading online in the UK.
This figure falls further when it comes to targeting international markets – with just seven percent of South West businesses using online channels to export.
And the report also found that only eight per cent of South West businesses use digital channels to search and discover growth opportunities for their business.
Positively, the survey of 2,000 firms employing 249 people or fewer suggests there are now more South West businesses online than ever before – 97 percent of SMEs are online compared to the 96 percent in 2014 when the report was first published.
The report suggests that by embracing digital skills, UK businesses could generate an additional £85 billion in turnover. For sole traders alone the figure was £43.3 billion.
For those businesses embracing advanced technologies including cloud IT, online accounting software and digital training tools there is the opportunity to generate more than £100,000 in extra annual turnover, compared to those who have none.
The benefits can go beyond finances too, with 2.5million businesses saving time through digital, more than twice as many compared to 2014. Small businesses and charities with advanced digital capabilities are able to save a day a week according to the report.
Stephen Noakes, Lloyds Banking Group’s ambassador for the South West, said: “The South West is home to more than 71,000 enterprises and is the base for some of the country’s leading names in digital, technology and manufacturing.
“As the world becomes more connected, it’s important for businesses and charities to have a strong online presence and the digital capabilities to attract new business or supporters, both in the UK and overseas.
"With this in mind, it’s disappointing to see that just 22 percent and seven percent respectively of SME organisations are using their digital channels to do this.
“With more than 1,600 specially trained digital champions in the South West, we are helping the region’s businesses and charities develop their skills to facilitate growth, as part of our Helping Britain Prosper plan.
"Over the coming 12 months we will continue to provide free to access training events for SMEs, to help them close the digital skills gap.”