Sensis CEO, John Allan's welcome speech at the 2015 Digital Marketing Forum.

"The challenge for us all is how to adopt new digital technologies and skills in order to expand our markets, take advantage of opportunities and to remain competitive."

Want to see what happened at the 2016 Digital Marketing Forum? Click here to see the latest tips and hints from some of the digital industry's thought leaders.


On 7 August 2015, The Australian in association with Sensis hosted a forum to discuss digital marketing in business.

The event comprised a panel discussion with some of the digital industry’s biggest players – leaders from Google, Facebook and Redbubble – and they shared their insights on key global trends in digital marketing and how businesses can make the most of it.

The following is a transcript of Sensis CEO, John Allan's welcome speech at the 2015 Digital Marketing Forum.

"More and more Australians are shopping, selling and socialising online. Stop for a moment and consider the facts.

More than a third of us go online more than 15 times a day, up 20 percent in one year.

Australians are spending on average the equivalent of a full working day on Facebook each week.

And almost half of all small businesses owners believe that being on page one of Google is important for their business.

If there was any doubt, now is the time to go digital.

In the words of Rupert Murdoch “The Internet has been the most fundamental change during my lifetime and for hundreds of years.”

And to paraphrase Bill Gates – “We are in the throes of a transition where every business has to think of their digital strategy”.

Welcome to The Australian Digital Marketing Forum 2015.

I would like to extend a warm welcome to our panel:

  • Maile Carnegie, Managing Director, Google, Australia & NZ
  • Stephen Scheeler, Head of Retail and eCommerce, Facebook, Australia & NZ
  • Martin Hosking, Founder, Red Bubble
  • And our moderator Alan Kohler, Editor of Business Spectator

And to the panel who will be sharing their experiences with you in the Digital Marketing Master Class:

  • David Hancock, Founder and Managing Director, Geeks 2U
  • Dan Ferguson, Chief Marketing Officer, DesignCrowd
  • Ruth Trewhella, Group Manager, TrueLocal
  • Jackson Hewitt, Commercial Editor, The Australian who will moderate the discussion.

Most of all I would like to thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to learn more about the trends we’re seeing across the digital landscape and how you can promote and grow your business online.

There are many business owners in the room here today, along with peers from the digital media world and larger corporations. Welcome.

So why has Sensis partnered with The Australian to present the Digital Marketing Forum?

There's no denying we're two organisations faced with very similar challenges.

Both News Limited and Sensis were founded and prospered as print businesses.

While print remains a substantial and profitable part of our business, and will for years to come, digital is our growth engine.

There is no doubt the future is digital.

So how does a print based business manage the transition to a digital future? The answer is simple...

Not only do you have to embrace the change, you have to lead it.

That's why we've evolved into Australia's leading marketing services provider – with more than half of our revenue coming from our digital businesses.

The digital challenge is as true for small businesses across the nation as it is ours.

The digital age is here and will change the nature of our economy, jobs and businesses as we know them, while the opportunities it presents are there for those who can make it work for them.

Since 1994, Sensis has tracked the technological and digital progression of small and medium business in Australia.

Our annual eBusiness Report provides a comprehensive picture of how SMB’s in Australia are embracing the digital age, the changing patterns of technology use amongst Australian households, and the intersections between the two.

Understanding these patterns provides businesses with a foundation from which to address their digital needs.

The Report shows that Australians are embracing online purchasing in ever increasing numbers, with six out of 10 of us buying online.

And surprisingly, when it comes to buying over the internet, it’s men who are the big spenders.

This year, they spent over two and a half times as much as women – or is it a case of their credit card is being used to make the purchases?

There is no doubt the increase in smartphone ownership has changed the way we connect online.

I know myself I’m often scanning social media sites or searching new products to buy while watching TV at night, and I can’t remember the last time my iPhone was more than 2 metres away from me.

69 percent of Australians access the internet using their smartphone, yet only 35 percent of small businesses – 45 percent in NSW – have a mobile-optimised website.

In April, Google announced a change to their search algorithm to give prominence to websites designed for viewing on mobiles and tablets.

This appears to have driven small and medium businesses to take action, with 28 percent planning to optimise their website for mobiles in the coming year.

It is not only your website you need to consider when understanding the impact of mobile.

To adapt to the new 'mobile first’ digital world you need to look at every aspect of your business from customer service to delivery of products and services through a mobile lens.

We’re doing this at Sensis.

We’ve developed an app called Skip to help cafes and restaurants meet the demands of the digital age.

Skip, an online ordering and payment app, has served up more than 100,000 orders on the back of increasing demand by Australians to access the fast-lane.

With lives busier than ever, time-poor customers are demanding greater convenience in return for their loyalty.

There’s no doubt consumers are digitally savvy – they’re conducting more searches online and seeking feedback on products and services before they buy.

Australia is less sophisticated than the US when it comes to ratings and reviews, however for businesses who manage this area well, the rewards are not only in the sale itself, but an increase in their ranking on Google.

Another trend we’ve seen is the rise in the share of online sales. This has steadily increased over the past three years and now sits at 41 percent "of all sales activity"

Interestingly, businesses are more likely to sell to the customer around the corner than customers around the world.

Two thirds reported that most of their online sales go to locals.

So what does this mean for you as a business owner?

You need to ask yourself the following questions: How will the digital age impact me and what can I do to harness it for the benefit of my business?

Have I got the right digital tools to grow my business online and take advantage of the opportunities out there?

It is with some concern that we found only 17 percent of small and medium businesses currently have a digital business strategy to address these questions, a figure which remains unchanged for the past two years

Who in the audience has a digital strategy? (show of hands)

While the thought of developing a digital strategy may be daunting, a good way to start is to – just start.

Digital marketing offers a relatively cost effective starting point and with more and more Australians searching and shopping online it is one of the best ways to get your business found.

Get your website into shape, create some click-worthy content or start to explore Facebook or Instagram.

The challenge for us all is how to adopt new digital technologies and skills in order to expand our markets, take advantage of opportunities and to remain competitive.

I hope today’s session will help you answer these fundamental questions for your business and I encourage you to take the opportunity to ask questions and interact with each other as you consider your digital future.

Thank you."