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The digitisation of small UK businesses presents an £827 billion growth opportunity.

New research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr) for Mastercard’s Strive UK initiative has shown this huge opportunity is available to small and micro-businesses who digitise over the next 5 years.

It would be a massive shot in the arm for a sector which plays a critical role in the UK economy. 5.94 million micro and small enterprises (MSEs) account for around 36% of turnover in the UK private sector and make up 48% of the labour force. This news couldn’t come at a better time for small business owners hard hit by the pandemic, where nearly two thirds saw revenue decrease and 44% had to make job cuts.

The pandemic highlighted what an essential role small businesses play in our local communities, providing services when others couldn’t, creating jobs, enriching our high streets, and keeping the country going – economically and emotionally. At the height of multiple lockdowns when many local businesses were forced to close shop, we missed them and counted down the days to their return.

Of course, many enterprising small businesses have already used technology to develop, diversify and expand their offering during this difficult time, with 41% of owners saying their company would not have survived without digital tools. But there is still so much more to be done.

As we emerge from the worst of the economic impact, and the nation’s small businesses consider growth prospects in the post-pandemic economy, support using digital tools is cited by business owners as the most important factor in achieving their growth aspirations after funding and government support packages.

According to Kelly Divine, President UK & Ireland, Mastercard;

‘To ensure the small businesses that are so crucial to our communities, high streets and economies not only survive but flourish we need to equip them with the digital tools and skills necessary to grow their businesses.

We have all seen examples of small businesses who’ve adapted in the last year thanks to digital technology and tools – whether it’s a corner shop offering online deliveries, a gym providing online personal training, or a local pub or restaurant using QR codes to access menus and ordering.

That confidence to use, and knowledge of, digital technology should be available to all small business owners.’

So, the message is getting out there, with over two thirds (70%) of small and medium sized businesses believing technology can improve their businesses. But despite this, only 25% have fully adopted technology into their businesses. Small business owners need to think about how they can digitise to thrive, but significant barriers still exist for many:

  • Lack of digital skills
  • Costs, both in terms of purchasing and implementation
  • Lack of time and other resources
  • Lack of external support
  • Security concerns

The Cebr survey of 1,000 decision makers showed that micro and small businesses are optimistic towards their growth outlook, but they also acknowledge that external sources of support could help facilitate that growth.

But the truth is these entrepreneurs and small business owners – particularly women and ethnic minorities – don’t know where to find the right support including digital tools for their businesses and many don’t know how to navigate their way through the plethora of choices available. Research shows 39% feel overwhelmed and 41% wish there was a ‘one stop shop’ for advice on what is right for their business.

It’s a finding that mirrors what We Are Acuity have seen in our interactions with local retailers, dealers, franchises, and affiliates over several years. In fact, it is what inspired us to develop our Managed Services offering. It’s a service where we support local retailers with their local digital marketing with a full end to end service from developing strategy, to running campaigns and delivering leads. If you’d like to read more about it, see our case study for Citroën’s Dealer network here.

Or if you’d like to read more about Mastercard and Cebr’s research and Strive UK, their initiative for connecting small business owners with the right digital tools and support click here, it’s a fantastic resource. Well done Mastercard, you are doing local business proud! https://www.mastercard.co.uk/en-gb/vision/priceless-causes/empower/strive.html

#savelocalbusiness #localmarketing #localretail

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