Online sales top £130 billion

Online sales by UK businesses jumped to 130.4 billion in 2006, up 29.1 per cent from the 2005, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

E-commerce now makes up 6.5 per cent of sales, the survey of 8,000 non-financial businesses over 10 employees found. As of last year, some 13.9 per cent of businesses use the internet to sell their product.

Sales over other IT systems - such as non-internet Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), telephone systems and email - rose by 9.7 per cent to 224.2 billion in 2006.

Technology isn't just how firms sell, but how they buy too, the survey said. Some 27.1 per cent of purchases by firms were made online or using other communication technologies - such as telephone, e-procurement or email.

The study also found that larger businesses are leading the way with adoption of broadband, as 99 per cent of those with over a thousand employees of some sort of high-speed connection. Of companies with 10 to 49 employees, just 70.3 per cent of had broadband.

"The results highlight greater use of ICTs by the largest businesses... and that saturation is being reached by most sizes of business surveyed, in some ICTs, such as computer use, Internet access and use of broadband," the ONS said.

The number of people with internet access at work climbed 6.2 per cent to 6.9 million. Those businesses with internet access were most likely to use it for accessing banking and for training.

One in seven firms had a website in 2006, while 39 per cent of businesses used software to manage their orders. One in 20 used Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software, while one in 10 used Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.

Just one in five businesses employed ICT specialists, but two in five said they had used external consultants.

The study also found that over half of businesses use the internet to communicate with government departments.