There is no doubt that technology is a key element in enabling and supporting business growth. Tech now helps SMEs to compete on a more level playing field with much bigger corporates – it has also allowed many start-ups to come into mature markets, disrupt the sector and take new ideas to market much faster.
The internet, and e-commerce, has made it possible for all businesses to reach a far wider customer market than was ever possible before. Strategic tools such as search engine optimisation and online advertising have also enabled businesses to target their audience effectively and to measure the effectiveness of their activities quickly and more accurately.
Social media has provided a whole new means for brands and their customers to engage. Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn all enable businesses to promote themselves and directly connect with their customers. According to Avocado Social there are 45 million social media users in the UK in 2019 and the average UK user spends 1hr 50 minutes accessing social media sites daily. A well-executed social media strategy can deliver lucrative results for sales, customer engagement and business recognition.
The growth of cloud-based solutions (‘Software as a Service’) has given SMEs access to powerful, feature-rich applications that were previously beyond their financial means. These solutions are available on monthly subscriptions without long-term commitments and require no or low capital investment to get up and running. Simply sign up, set up the billing details and begin using them. They allow SMEs to use as little or as much of the service as they need whilst enabling businesses to work more efficiently, provide insights into customers and business performance that were previously not available, and support business growth without needing a change of system.
Wireless access and mobile technology, particularly 4G and now 5G mobile networks, has meant that customers have come to expect services to be available whenever and wherever they want. As well as customers expecting to access business services or buy items 24/7, business owners using cloud solutions have the capability to engage with customers and to access information about their business, for example customer information, order details and cashflow forecast, from anywhere and at any time they need to. This can be a game changer for agile companies that need to act fast to get ahead of competitors or respond to demand before customers’ attention is lost.
Whilst it‘s indisputable that technology is helping businesses grow, we also have to acknowledge that the amount of data available, the vast array of systems, the 24/7 availability and the pace at which things change also puts more pressure on business owners and their teams.
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