SMEs need to do more to keep up with their customers or risk losing out

However, while this digital behaviour is becoming more prevalent among consumers, many small businesses aren’t mirroring the same enthusiasm – to their own detriment. According to the UK Cabinet Office’s Digital Inclusion Strategy, at the end of 2014 a third of SMEs did not have a website that could sell their product. When e-commerce last year accounted for £52.25bn in sales and grew by 16.2 per cent on the previous year, a functioning and modern, mobile-optimised website is now essential.

A recent study from Barclaycard also revealed that retailers who don’t accept card payments are losing out of £9 million worth of business! A high price to pay for not investing in the technology and adapting to these growing trend.

While SMEs are the backbone of the UK economy, accounting for more than 90% of all businesses, they face unique challenges in making the most of new digital technologies, not least because small business owners are so busy running their companies and providing great customer service.

In a world where digital disruption is changing the business environment, SMEs can’t afford to stand still. For many businesses, websites or online stores are now a company’s true shop window. That’s why the mantra for many new SME startups should be ‘mobile first’ with smartphones accounting for £6.79bn in sales in 2015. Customers won’t wait to get home to a computer if a website doesn’t display well on their phone, they’ll just go somewhere else so businesses need to have a site that is accessible across all devices.

Once the website is in place, digital marketing tools like e-newsletters can help customers find it. All additional sales channels and marketing activity should aim to bring customers to this website or store. Using third party vendors such as Amazon can help widen the reach of products, but even there, the aim should be to move these customers onto the company’s own website.

Once customers are interested, they will want to interact with the business, wherever they happen to be and at any time. The system needs to be ready at all times and automatically track inventory. After all, a customer won’t be impressed if a company can’t fulfill a purchase and the e-commerce platform hasn’t been updated with current stock information. Automated inventory and sales systems can help a company gain better visibility and be ready to sell when the customer’s ready to buy.

Finally, SMEs who want to make a sale need to be ready to accept the form of payment that is most convenient to their customers – and increasingly, that means credit cards and online payment transfers.

Technology that helps SMEs do what they do best

SMEs are not only experts in what they sell, but they’re also typically experts in the other vital component of running a business – their customers. Focusing on these two things is what ultimately drives a successful company.

So, they’d be forgiven for thinking of technology as a distraction from their day to day operations. But in a digital age, this attitude isn’t sustainable. What SMEs need are technology solutions that are simple to understand and easy to implement; that add real value to their business and help them achieve their goals with the right support and guidance along the way.

The good news is that today’s SMEs have support at their finger-tips with a vast amount of technology platforms available to help them overcome these challenges and to continue achieving their goals.

Toby Davidson, VP, SAP Anywhere