Small Businesses Not Cowed by Emerging Tech Needs; 4 in 10 Likely to Invest in New Digital Platforms

August 17, 2018

Rather than seeing the shift to digital technologies and e-commerce as a burden, many small business owners are unfazed and even seeing the disruption as a positive for their business, according to the Q3 2018 Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index [pdf]. In fact, half said that the continuing need to have up-to-date technology and upgraded digital platforms is an overall plus for their small business, against just 6% seeing it as a negative.

Furthermore, respondents were as likely to say that the need to keep up with and invest in new technology for their business causes them “no financial strain” (35%) as to say that it causes them some or a great deal (36% combined) of financial strain.

The move to digital platforms and technologies seems to have been met with, if anything, a collective shrug. More than half said that the ability to automate their existing work and get by with fewer employees won’t affect their business (59%), and likewise most (62%) said that the shift from owning computer hardware and physical equipment to paying for solutions and platforms online won’t affect them.

That attitude extends to e-commerce, too. Two-thirds said that the shift from in-person, brick-and-mortar stores to retailing conducted online is not having much impact on their business. The rest were fairly evenly split on whether or not it helped or hurt their business.

There’s an important caveat to that finding, though. Just 1 in 5 small business owners surveyed feel that their business competes with large e-commerce companies and retailers. Those facing that competition are twice as likely to believe that the shift to digital has hurt (46%) than helped (23%) their business.

Currently most of the small business owners surveyed are conducting the majority of their business offline: just 17% said that at least half is conducted online. While they envision some change in the next 5 years, they don’t foresee huge shifts: only 26% feel that at least half of their business will be conducted online.

4 in 10 Likely to Invest in New Technologies and Platforms

The 600+ US small business owners surveyed for the report were asked about their likelihood of making a range of investments in the coming 12 months. The results indicate that many look set to take actions regarding digital platforms:

  • 54% are somewhat or very likely to increase their business’ online presence through online marketing and social media sites (separate research suggests they’ll look to Facebook, YouTube and Instagram for those efforts);
  • 52% are somewhat or very likely to change or update their business website (and hopefully their business listings?);
  • 49% are somewhat or very likely to increase their business’ ability to conduct business with customers online;
  • 42% are somewhat or very likely to increase efforts to interact with customers via online applications or mobile apps; and
  • 38% are somewhat or very likely to invest in new digital technologies or platforms for their business.

Fewer (14%) are likely to hire an outside company or consultant to advise on their business’ technology needs.

About the Data: The results are based on telephone interviews conducted in July 2018 among 604 US small business owners.

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