There is a huge demand for web-based professional services among small- to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), according to a survey by the Yankee Group.
The research firm believes the boom is being driven by the fact that most SMBs lack the time, technical expertise and internet marketing skills to establish and maintain a professional-looking web presence on their own.
Web-based services enable SMBs and mid-market enterprises to capitalise on online marketing, advertising and e-commerce sales tool benefits, resulting in greater return on investment for their marketing strategies and increased leads and revenue.
Yankee Group predicts that within the US alone, web-hosting market revenue will rise from $4.4bn in 2005 to $5.4bn by 2010; the web-based services market will grow from $2.9bn in 2005 to $4.1bn in 2010; and online marketing and advertising spending will grow from $1.3bn in 2005 to $9.3bn in 2010.
The company adds that as SMBs become increasingly interactive and e-commerce enabled, their adoption of online marketing tools to advertise their businesses will also climb. Currently, says Yankee, about 39% of US SMBs sell and conduct e-commerce on their websites, which is a 5% increase from 2004.
However, as the search marketing area gets more complicated and the online marketing and advertising stakes get higher, SMBs will likely turn to specialists to outsource their online marketing initiatives.
"The area of online and search marketing has become too complicated for SMBs to tackle on their own," says Sanjeev Aggarwal, Yankee Group SMB strategies senior analyst.
"SMBs and mid-market enterprises will rely on professional web services companies that can help them test, learn, optimise, maintain and enhance their online web presence, e-commerce and online marketing, which generates a greater impact on their business."