Social media and digital technology at forefront of retail and SME’s business growth strategy, SAP survey finds

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A new survey conducted by SAP, a market leader in enterprise application software, which recently launched a new SME solution, SAP Anywhere, a single software solution designed for growing businesses to manage all their marketing, ecommerce, inventory and sales from any mobile device, found that SME retailers in the UK are increasingly looking for technology to support their business development. In particular, over three quarters of respondents stated technology is helping their business overcome ongoing business challenges.

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Key findings of the study, which was based on a face-to-face survey with retailers and SMEs between April and May 2016, include:

Social Media is critical to SME retailers

The study revealed that SME retailers were active on social channels, with all respondents using at least one social channel. Significantly nearly a third (29%) are using more than three forms of social media, highlighting the importance it plays in retailers reaching their customers. This included the main social media channels: Facebook, Linked In and Twitter, as well as Pinterest and YouTube.

EJ Jackson, SVP & GM of SAP Anywhere, said: “Every customer we engage with has an interest in social media. At the Internet Retailing Show in April, the vast majority were keen to learn more about how they too could leverage social media to reach new customers in the UK and further afield. SAP Anywhere enables retailers to manage and drive their social media, to understand and interact with customers, post simultaneous news, then gain instant tracking and feedback, making social interactions simple and very beneficial to their business. The number using social media will grow exponentially as social selling becomes a critical business opportunity for retailers.”

Technology is helping retailers reach new customers

A key finding from the study was the importance digital technology can play in reaching new customers, whilst helping them to deliver a better customer experience:

  • Over three quarters of respondents (79%) stated technology is helping their business overcome ongoing business challenges
  • Four out of 10 highlighted that reaching new customers was the most important area technology was assisting their business in reaching their future goals
  • Whilst three out of 10 said investment in technology was fundamental to developing new sales and e-commerce
  • Better customer experience was also cited as a critical role of digital technology for SMEs (13%)

“Growing businesses are at the forefront of delivering a great customer experience. They have the skills, agility and personal touch to be there for customers. New technology can really help to play its part, enabling retailers to get a complete picture of not only their business, but every interaction with their customers. This means, at a touch of a button, then can understand and tailor their service to customer needs, which is critical in the global retail world we operate in,” said Jackson.

Potential barriers to implementing digital technology still exist

Despite the significant value offered by technology innovation and investment, SME retailers in the UK also raised a number concerns on the potential barriers to implementing new digital solutions.

  • Cost was still a drawback for digital investment and growth (23%)
  • Businesses were concerned technology would take the timetaken away from running their company, with over a fifth (21%) of respondents citing this as a hurdle;
  • Securitywas also a key concern, with almost a fifth (17%) noting this as an issue

EJ Jackson commented: “SMEs face a huge number of challenges to grow and survive. They are hit with global competition, evolving consumer buying habits, security and pricing pressures, all whilst trying to balance the act of staying profitable. This is where the concept of SAP Anywhere was born. We wanted to combine all the various software SMEs often use into one mobile platform, accessible anywhere, available on any device, flexible so they can see any part of their business, and robust enough to interact and support all their needs, whether it is sales, marketing, customer engagements or managing your inventory. Feedback I’ve received from customers is that SAP Anywhere feels like hiring 20 people into their business.”

The SAP Anywhere study findings underscore trends in the SME retail sector, with over half of online sales now made through mobile devices according to Capgemini’s recent Quarterly Benchmarking Report. Small businesses are also taking a more proactive approach to the use of data analytics to help improve productivity and understand their customers better. Research by Experian, the data management firm, found that by 2020 customer data will drive the majority of sales decisions.

Technology is empowering retailers in real-life situations

Alex Bartholomew, designer and founder of the luxury leather golf shoe brand, Royal Albartross, commented; “Even if you’re a small company, technology has the power to enable you to compete with far bigger companies. This is hugely exciting, but can be a little unnerving, especially if you’re fairly new to market. That’s why SME retailers need a technology partner that can provide a simple and easy to implement solution – one that’s mobile and flexible. SAP Anywhere’s study shows that SME retailers are eager to make the most of digital technologies. New tools are making the benefits of technology increasingly accessible and in turn making it even more exciting to be an SME retailer.”

The survey was conducted face-to-face with over 100 senior retail business leaders at the Internet Retailing Expo and Pulse, two of the UK’s leading retail sector events, between April and May, 2016.