Posted: Thu 8th Feb 2024
In recent years, small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) have weathered the storms of Brexit, the global pandemic and sudden economic challenges. But many have not only survived, but thrived in these turbulent times, thanks to their embrace of digital technology.
To understand this, Sage investigated 10 diverse locations in the UK, surveying over 5,000 SMBs. This landmark study, Digital Britain: How small businesses are turning the tide on tech, delves into the achievements, barriers and the true effects of digitalisation on today's economy.
In this blog, we share key insights from the study and present three effective ways your small business can begin to integrate technology into your ways of working.
The benefits of adopting technology
Incorporating digital technology into your business doesn't just contribute to your own growth, it also stabilises and future-proofs the economy.
According to the Sage study, SMBs' use of technology has already added £216 billion to the UK economy. This figure could nearly double to £448 billion if the average level of adoption matches that of the top 20% of SMBs.
This boost is good for all businesses, and you'll also access individual benefits if you start using more digital tools. These include the following:
Happy employees: Digital technologies create new experiences that drive employee satisfaction, helping you retain staff and attract top talent. For instance, 48% of SMBs have dedicated tech solutions for HR and communicating with their workforce.
Stronger online presence: Being proactive in optimising your website and social media boosts brand awareness, helps you reach new customers and strengthens your relationships. Eighty-one per cent of SMBs use digital technology to improve their website's design or functionality, and 73% for social media.
Increased productivity: Going digital with your business processes streamlines your day-to-day operations, saving you time and money and reducing the risk of human error.
Greater market reach: Digital technology grants you the freedom to explore opportunities on a much wider scale, and helps you enter new markets where you have a competitive edge.
Breaking down barriers to digitalisation
With those benefits in mind, you're probably keen to get going with some new tech tools. But, before you do, you'll need to consider some of the things that stand in your way.
The Digital Britain report revealed the most common of these barriers, and the strategies that will help you overcome them:
1. Choosing solutions
"41% of SMBs say they're unaware of which solution is right for their business."
A common stumbling block for many businesses is the overwhelming variety of technology solutions available. The fact that technology is advancing so quickly, coupled with the ever-growing number of suppliers and software tools, can make it really difficult to know which option is the right one.
To break down this barrier:
Work with the people inside your business to create a priority list based on your business's short-term and long-term goals.
Consider factors such as price, potential return on investment (ROI) and how easy it will be to integrate the technology. This will help you build a focused set of needs that you can use to shortlist some options.
Get proof from suppliers
If your businesses is facing some cash-flow challenges, ask technology suppliers for evidence of how their solutions provide value.
Request examples of how they've helped other customers achieve measurable results, with an emphasis on ROI and the time it took to become profitable. This way, you'll have more of an idea of the potential commercial benefits of each option.
2. Making the most of data
"Only 24% of SMBs have adopted tech to make use of their data."
Data is a valuable resource, yet many businesses struggle to use it to its full potential. The good news is the more digital technology you use, the more data you'll produce. This in turn creates more value if you learn how to make use of it.
To break down this barrier:
Make data a priority
Consider implementing software that lets you use the data you've captured effectively. The flexibility in structuring and interpreting data opens up opportunities to set yourself apart from competitors and create new value for customers. With a wider view of your business, you get a stronger sense of where to focus.
Build relationships with suppliers
Engage with suppliers to understand how their technology can help you make best use of your data. One example is working closely with social media companies to understand their algorithms and use them to your advantage. A strong relationship here will help you use your data to improve your reach and convert more customers.
3. Using new tech effectively
"44% said the biggest issue they face when using new tech is learning the skills to use it effectively."
Bringing in new technology is only the first part of the journey. Getting everyone to use it effectively is another challenge altogether. This is often difficult for a few reasons, such as a reluctance to change ways of working and a lack of understanding of how to use the new tool.
To break down this barrier:
Dedicate time and effort to training your existing employees and your new hires on how to use the technology most effectively.
Consider a comprehensive training programme that covers not just the basics but the more advanced functionality as well. Run this regularly so everyone can make the most of the software's latest capabilities and get the most value from the tools you're using.
Set up an ambassador programme
Nominate ambassadors inside the business who will be responsible for making sure colleagues using the tools are happy, comfortable and productive.
This can help keep people enthusiastic for the technology and address any challenges they may encounter. Investing in employees' skills helps to build your reputation and company culture.
Learn more with Sage's Digital Britain report
The resilience that UK businesses have shown over the past few years highlights just how crucial digital technologies are becoming.
By breaking down the main barriers found in the Sage report, businesses can successfully embrace the tools that will drive their own success and grow the UK economy.
For a deeper dive into digitalisation among SMBs, specific industry insights and regional perspectives across the UK, download Sage's full Digital Britain report.
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