Embracing digital innovation – why now?

A recent report by Brother Industries found that a third of business aren’t planning to invest in expanding their digital capability in the next year and roughly the same number haven’t got any sort of digital strategy in place at all.

But the link between increased digital capability and productivity is well established. Investment in technology when combined with effective management practices can boost productivity by as much as 20%.

Recent government calculations, found that if the UK raised its productivity by even just one percentage point every year, within a decade it would add £240bn to the size of the economy or the equivalent of £9,000 for every household in Britain.

Going digital seems an obvious choice. But how do businesses get there?   

Accelerating change

The past few years have seen unprecedented growth of technology in the business space. Many believe that we are now in the second age of fintech with numerous digital solutions available to help small and large business run more effectively.

Yet despite its benefits, a separate study found that 31 per cent of business leaders in the UK are reluctant to embrace new technological innovations with 32 per cent of businesses still storing business-sensitive information on paper. This is big concern for those dealing with customer data because security regulations require this sort of information to be stored securely.   

Innovation as a mind-set

From big data to blockchain and virtual reality, each new wave of technology brings about a flurry of excitement – and raises certain valid questions. Anxiety around change and abandoning old processes is just one reason there are so many late tech adopters in the business space.

There are some other reasons too. The same study found that 36 per cent of respondents listed cost as the main barrier to technology adoption, with the difficulty of introducing new tech coming in second at 16 per cent.

It can also be difficult to know which technologies will genuinely improve our operations and working lives. Digital innovation can mean many things to many businesses. It doesn’t have to mean expensive devices or robotics; it could be anything that helps a company automate and streamline its processes to benefit its employees, drive profits and better serve customers. Examples in recent years include cloud-based computing for data security, payroll management systems, digitised invoices, customer support software, retail POS systems and workflow management.

Old habits may die hard, but for those willing to look beyond the short-term pain of investment, the benefits could be significant.   

Reduced costs and improved cash flow

Recent Barclaycard research found that 63% of SME decision-makers are worried about cash flow in their business. Finding ways to track and control spending helps businesses identify areas where they could save or reallocate funds. That’s why over the past year, Barclaycard Payment Solutions migrated 100k of its customers to its Bankworks platform enabling merchants to collate billing and settlements in a single dashboard that can be integrated directly with systems.

Having a 24/7 awareness of cash flow also builds good habits and processes which could place businesses in a stronger position should their workforce and outgoings increase. By providing secure cards, Barclaycard Precisionpay, our virtual procurement card solution, can help businesses pay for the things they need on time and on budget, reducing costs in the process while taking the away the need of a physical card. 

Stock management

Losing track of and reordering unnecessary stock can amount to unnecessarily high costs. Using stock management tools that provide real-time analysis of inventory takes the guesswork out of ordering, allowing business owners to keep an eye on bestsellers and track wastage including breakages and theft.  

Staff management

Implementing the right staff management solution is a great way to help business owners get the best from their workforce, reducing admin time for those responsible for planning shifts and dealing with absence requests.   

Payment methods

In a world where customers expect everything yesterday with just a tap of their card, businesses of all sizes must be prepared to move with the times. Where once small businesses could easily be forgiven for operating a cash-only policy, customers are likely to view out-of-date payment methods as a huge inconvenience in our increasingly cashless society.

Ten years after contactless technology came into our lives, today there are even more opportunities to alternative payment methods. Two in five merchants in the UK now only accept card payments or plan to become completely cash-free in the next five years. Retailers who accept contactless have seen their number of sales increase by an average of 30 per cent and over half would like the spending limit raised above £30 as a result. 

Grow faster

This is the big one. No matter what their position, businesses are always striving for growth. Adopting tools that provide more control over finances and spending in periods where they’re short of time will give businesses more time to focus on their futures. 

Do your homework

Better-run organisations perform better. Faced with ever-more varied and sophisticated options, knowing what to adopt, when and why can easily become overwhelming. The most important thing is tailoring what you adopt to the needs of your business. Solutions are fighting to become more competitive, streamlined and user-friendly every day. Do your research and choose the ones likely to have the biggest impact on your day-to-day operations with the least immediate upheaval. 

Barclaycard Smartpay Hub

Choosing the right solution can help transform operations and increase conversions in even the smallest business. With the introduction of the Smartpay Hub, Barclaycard Payment Solutions is providing a one-stop shop for small businesses. An all-in-one electronic point of sale solution, it makes it easier for businesses to take payments, reduce costs, save time and grow.

Designed with the hospitality and retail sector in mind, Barclaycard Smartpay Hub is scalable to businesses of all sizes and has features to help with book keeping, staff management, mobile payments, stock management and allows businesses to track sales by staff, product or category.