Despite a shifting political landscape and wariness of data security and data management issues, more than a third (38%) of UK SMEs plan to expand their business portfolio in the coming year, according to a new study conducted by CensusWide on behalf of SAP. SME’s expansion plans include an increased focus on e-commerce (35%), an increase in the number of physical sites (26%) and an expansion of their businesses into other industries (21%). Responses to the survey came from more than 500 UK SMEs in the retail, financial, manufacturing and HR sectors.
Amid enthusiasm around the potential for digital technologies, the study also revealed cited concerns around issues like security (45%), data management (including regulations such as GDPR) (35%), expense (34%), complexity (25%) and a lack of skills to maximise the impact of new solutions (25%).
According to SMEs, digital technologies will play a key role in business transformation. Nearly half of respondents (48%) said that one of the most important roles that digital technology will play in their business, is reaching new and existing customers via marketing and social media. This is a crucial step towards the recently integrated ‘social commerce’ approach already being deployed in the Chinese market. This is likely to take shape by businesses analysing customer and business data (43%) and an increased focus for retailers on e-commerce (42%). In the retail sector, the figure jumps to 54% of SMEs that plan to invest in digital technology innovation for their businesses in the coming year.
The top five reasons for SMEs to invest in digital technology innovation for their business are:
- Managing their business more efficiently (50%)
- Helping grow their business (or more meeting other business goals) (47%)
- Reaching new customers/ markets (47%)
- Remaining competitive (42%)
- Improving digital marketing/social media outreach (28%)
SMEs retailer’s main reasons for investing in digital technologies are to help grow their business or meet business goals (54%), to reach new customers (54%) and to manage their business more efficiently (48%). They feel the most important roles technology can play in their business are to help deliver better customer service (50%) to develop new sales/e-commerce channels (48%) and to reach new customers (46%).
According to senior vice president, global channels & general business, cloud sales & solutions, Cathy Daum: “The high-street has seen major changes over the past ten years, and digitisation is playing a key role in that transformation. Initially, the emergence of smartphones created an impact on the bottom line of brick and mortar stores. Today, creating an omnichannel experience that is rooted in technology, is crucial to providing customers with a seamless end-to-end experience. Those that pay attention and evolve with consumer attitudes are strengthening their businesses and experiencing advancements as a result.”