New Zealand businesses have been slow to harness the power of the internet, with only a third owning a website and 20 per cent selling their products online.

The survey findings from the latest MYOB business monitor of 1000 businesses found manufacturers were the fastest adopters of the internet, with 50 per cent owning a business website, ahead of retail and hospitality on 48 per cent.

Accounting software company MYOB's general manager Julian Smith said New Zealand businesses needed to make better use of the world wide web to drive productivity and make gains on Australia.

Currently 35 per cent of Australian businesses own a website.

Businesses with a website and an online presence tended to perform better and generate more revenue than those without a website, he said.

"When we look at ways we can boost the productivity of the whole economy - helping more businesses get online would achieve real results," he said.

According to the monitor, 44 per cent of businesses with a website had more sales or orders in the pipeline, compared with 30 per cent of businesses that don't operate online.

In the year to date, 37 per cent of businesses with a website said they had posted an increase in revenue, against 28 per cent of those without had not adopted the technology.

Of the main centres, Christchurch led the way for online activity with 37 per cent of businesses saying they operated a website, followed closely by Auckland on 36 per cent.

Wellington, despite being the seat of Government, lagged behind, with only 31 per cent of businesses owning a website.

The survey also showed a considerable difference in online activity by the size of a business.

Small and medium enterprises, with five - 19 employees, were the most active online, with 68 per cent owning a website, while only 28 per cent of sole traders said they had an online presence.

However, more sophisticated online tools and trends were yet to make significant inroads into business activity, Smith said.

Just 14 per cent of businesses said they used the power of social media to support business aims.

The survey also showed a marked generation gap when it came to who used social media, with 22 per cent of business owners under 40 using social media tools to promote their business against 11 per cent of those in the over 40 bracket.