European businesses way behind in website savvy

Even in the most Internet-friendly countries, only 40 percent of businesses have websites, many of which are outdated, with far fewer using e-commerce, a study found.

European businesses are not doing enough to use the Internet to grow their customer base and promote products, Belgian database and marketing firm Email-Brokers said after studying 13 million websites.

Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands have the highest proportion of companies online, but even in these countries, 40 percent of business have no Internet presence, it found.

The European Commission has estimated that companies that exploit the full potential of the Internet create, on average, more than twice as many jobs.

"It is one of the ways to create employment and economic growth and it is not 'Star Trek,' it exists today," Email-Brokers head William Vande Wiele said.

Britain and Liechtenstein were the most advanced in terms of e-commerce — defined as being able to process orders and payments — with 16 percent and 17 percent, respectively, of business sites offering it, compared with 6 percent in Belgium and 9 percent in Austria, Germany and the Netherlands.

Vande Wiele said many corporate websites were badly designed, and did not provide basics such as adequate contact information or company details.

In Belgium, 91 percent of all corporate websites did not meet such basic standards, compared with about 20 percent in Luxembourg and France, the study concluded.

"Sites which do not comply with such minimum standards do not inspire confidence, and before buying something online a user will need a minimum level of confidence," Vande Wiele said.

Many websites are not kept up to date, the study also found, with more than 80 percent of business sites in Belgium, Greece, Italy and Spain not updated for more than a year.



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