According to a new study, SMEs see digital opportunities as a major priority for investment in the year ahead, and are prepared to confront the challenges that have prevented them from reaping the benefits to date.
New data from the Close Brothers Business Barometer - a quarterly survey which gauges sentiment from business owners and managers from across the UK and Ireland - reveals that 20% of firms plan to prioritise investment in technology this year. For large numbers of these businesses, that will mean investing in new digital tools and technologies.
Moreover, the Business Barometer also shows that similar numbers of SMEs are planning investments in marketing (17%), the development of new products and services (18%) and skills (22%). In each case, a digital focus is likely to be an important part of the process.
“SMEs are progressively realising that failing to invest in digital technologies could result in them being left behind by competitors or new entrants to their industries,” warned Andy Leopold, Head of Sales in the South at Close Brothers Invoice Finance. “They need to start seeing digital as an opportunity to acquire new customers, grow market share and move into new areas – but also to enable efficiencies that will reduce costs.”
However, while SMEs are increasingly anxious to secure these benefits, a number of obstacles stand in their way: Data privacy and cyber security are becoming ever more challenging – as well as being able to fund new digital investments.
“Firms need support from a broad range of organisations as they work towards incorporating digital into the day-to-day running of the
business,” added Leopold. “Appropriate funding will be a crucial part of that support required to invest in new technology – from
accounting software to more efficient machinery - and we believe alternative finance solutions, such as invoice finance, are key
to providing a bespoke and flexible option that works in line with each individual business’s objectives.”