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Embracing technology: Our top tips for SMEs

While it goes without saying that the past year has been tough, we have seen positive developments emerge as businesses embrace technology.

With lockdown restrictions, the conditions and pressures brought about by the pandemic have led many small businesses to re-think and adopt new technologies as a way to boost their operations, sales, service and productivity. According to the most recent Barclaycard SME Barometer, almost three in ten (29 per cent) SMEs say they will invest in new equipment and technology in 2021, with others viewing technology as THE top opportunity for growth over the next year, and 50 per cent already having invested in digital upskilling for staff.

Find the right tech for you

It won’t be a surprise to anyone to learn that businesses who have been able to operate online at some capacity have performed best over these long months. Even now, our recent Barclaycard Spend report reveals that online grocery spend has surged by 115.2 per cent year on year, as lots of us continue to rely on home deliveries for our shopping. For many businesses, simple e-commerce functionality has been enough to keep their business going while physical locations have been closed, but, as we reported last year, many others have had to get more creative in pivoting their digital offerings.
Never underestimate the raw power of surprise and delight. We’ve seen an inspiring explosion of online content this year, with everyone from DIY stores, hairdressers and theatres to healthcare practitioners, kids clubs and personal trainers finding ways to engage new and existing customers online through invaluable tutorials, explanations and performances for them to enjoy during lockdown. Elsewhere, for retailers doubling down on digital acceleration, augmented reality tools are allowing shoppers to try before they buy. In an ongoing lockdown trend, spending on digital subscriptions and takeaways rose by 42.6 per cent and 30.0 per cent respectively in February, according to Barclaycard data, so it pays to keep investing in digital.
Start small

When it comes to technology, expensive doesn’t always mean better. There are plenty of small and simple solutions out there that can have a huge impact on the efficiency and success of your day-to-day business. So, start small and simple. Look at what you can be doing to streamline; remove any tasks or steps from your process that you would otherwise be doing yourself, and gather insights to show you where to improve.

Just because you can only afford to make small changes now, doesn’t mean you won’t be able to accelerate more in the future. Likewise, you don’t have to keep any solutions that aren’t working for you. If you start small, experimentation doesn’t have to be expensive – and any decisions you make today don’t have to be forever. Audit your tech continuously, taking note of what real-time benefits it has delivered for you, as well as where things still need to improve. Beta test new ideas with your family and friends to identify where any kinks are – and keep your eyes open to see what your competitors are doing.

Make data your new best friend

Even before the pandemic, the Federation of Small Businesses(FSB) estimated that 50,000 SMEs were going out of business each year because of late payments in the supply chain. Now, as cash flow remains stilted for many, 62% of small businesses have experienced an increase in late payments as a result of the pressures of COVID-19. According to Anna Porra, Commercial Strategy Director at Barclaycard Payments, collecting data and knowing what to do with it is the best way for businesses to avoid pitfalls in the procurement payments process:

“Insufficient data and clunky supplier payments mean that businesses of all shapes and sizes are putting their supply chains at risk. By embracing the latest technology and data analytics, companies can maintain vital supplier relationships, futureproof their operations and ultimately support small businesses through difficult times.”

Every late or inefficient transaction in your supply chain can spell big trouble down the line. Embrace data tools to help you smooth out and streamline your supply chain. Barclaycard Payment Intelligence (BPI) helps businesses catalogue their suppliers based on the number and value of transactions as well as their size, location and industry, and whether or not each payment is likely to generate savings. This can help you out enormously when it comes to making those big decisions.

Right there with you

From payment acceptance to support with cashflow, Barclaycard’s range of SME-dedicated solutions have been designed to streamline the small business ecosystem. For more information visit www.barclaycard.co.uk/business