Over the next two years, UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are planning to increase investment into their digital capabilities by £53 billion and will prioritise their websites over mobile technologies, according to new research from Santander Corporate and Commercial.
According to the survey, the average firm has committed £33,212 to digital investment over the past year and plans are underway to increase this figure by £28,224.
Stephen Dury, the managing director of SME Markets & Business Development and Santander Corporate & Commercial said: “Investment in digital capabilities can significantly enhance business growth opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses.”
Despite this, firms are hoping to invest further with 8% of the companies that took part in the survey estimated that in the last year they have spent over £100,000 on digital capabilities. 6% plan to increase investment by over £100,000 in the future.
The financial services and IT sectors have spent the most and this is expected to continue in the coming years. On average, IT companies invested £46,429 in the last year whereas the financial services each invested £49,500.
Within two years, IT firms predict that they will increase this by £43,962 whilst financial services companies expect to spend £42,083 more.
“Just having a functional website can have a dramatic impact on a firm’s visibility and connectivity with customers and other stakeholders,” said the managing director. “While it is great to see that many firms are focused on this, the concern is that a significant number are still failing to invest effectively and are therefore missing out on these opportunities.”
In terms of regional numbers, London is up top and is set to invest the most at £42,925, which is ahead of businesses in the Midlands who are in second place at £31,531. Compared with this, businesses in the South West are, so research suggests, looking to invest a much lower amount of £19,500.
Although mobile technologies is constantly growing, traditional websites are still the main priority for SME owners with nearly 56% of firms saying their websites make their businesses more successful, research says. 16% of SMEs have said that they do not have a website while 34% can accept payments online. Only 13% host a foreign-language version of their website.
“Santander is committed to helping UK businesses prosper. As a scale challenger, we are bringing much-needed competition to the banking market with what we believe is a unique approach to UK businesses,” said Stephen Dury.
Around 54% of firms that are investing in digital capabilities are looking to develop their websites compared with just 16% who are launching digital apps. An additional 13% plan to develop online payment facilities with 10% launching websites for the first time, and 10% planning to access new markets by launching foreign language versions of their website.
At the core of its proposition, Santander Corporate & Commercial has put market-leading digital functionalities and services for its SME clients. The business offers the Trade Portal; a data-rich online platform that allows them to research global markets and this will help businesses trade internationally. To add to this, they will also be able to access the Trade Club which is a network of five million SMEs based all over the globe that bank with Santander.
“Our success is evidence by four years of double digit growth in lending and support to UK companies,” said Stephen Dury. “We also continue to invest in technology, digital, product and customer service improvements which underscores our desire to be the bank of choice for UK SMEs.”