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If SMEs want to be more productive and stay relevant in an increasingly digital world – more work needs to be done.

Small businesses are the mainstay of the British economy. Of the nearly 5.7 million businesses in the UK, over 99% are small businesses employing fewer than 50 staff.

Recent research commissioned by Brother UK alongside The Daily Telegraph states that “small businesses are increasingly falling way behind their larger counterparts when it comes to investing in digital innovation”. This could in turn have a major impact on their ability to adapt to new digital ways of working and ultimately reduce their levels of productivity.

Embracing digital can include a number of developments used to take advantage of modern technology, and it certainly doesn’t have to break the bank. Even minor digital updates can have a huge impact on the overall functionality of any business.

Digital updates on processes could be investing more in social media or digital marketing, embracing mobile innovation with app technology, streamlining old processes with relevant software, new smart-machinery for factories or warehouses, or powerful analytics to track sales and distribution of goods. The opportunities that are now accessible at a relatively low cost are essentially endless.

With this in mind, it’s hugely concerning that the Brother UK report found that more than 50% of small businesses have not set aside any budget for the next year to invest in technology. This compares with only 14% of medium companies and 8% of larger businesses.

Avoiding the pitfalls in 2019

In order to understand the level of impact embracing (or not embracing) digital can have on your business, its important to look back and learn from some of the great digital successes and mistakes of the last couple of decades.

Amazon, eBay, and Facebook were among the first batch of proactive companies to recognise the untapped potential of mobile apps, placing mobile app development at the heart of their core digital business strategies. They quickly realised apps would become an integral part of the B2C (Business-to-Consumer) infrastructure as digital interactions and patterns of consumer behaviour pointed towards mobile commerce. They were right.

Amazon and eBay were formed towards the end of 1995, and Facebook even later in 2002, however despite being formed around what would now be considered outdated concepts, all three have become powerhouses of the internet as we know it today ― highlighting their relentless continuation to adapt, and their razor-sharp acumen of knowing exactly where and when the customer is heading before the customer knows themselves.

“Toys R Us and Mothercare were both powerhouses in their respective industries”

On the flip side, Toys R Us and Mothercare were both capitals in their respective industries, but poor digital planning and naivety regarding the need for mobile and electronic commerce contributed to the failure of the nation’s favourite toy shop and assisted in Mothercare’s drastic decline.

It is important to be proactive when catering to the world’s digital requirements particularly if competitors are already making moves to accommodate. Nokia failed to recognise the increasing importance of software and also drastically underestimated how important the transition to smartphones would be, and in the end Apple and Samsung were so far ahead that Nokia, the once nations sweetheart of mobile phones, was left way behind.

Embracing digital doesn’t necessarily mean out with the old in with the new. There will always be a place for traditional values, and if your company has been built around an ethos of delivering warm, brick-and-mortar experiences, be sure to retain and utilize those values within every aspect or your online presence going forward as you embrace a digital future.