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Small Business and the global digital evolution

The digital landscape is changing. How can SME’s stay in touch?

The last 12 months has seen some seismic shifts in the macroeconomic landscape, impacting businesses of all shapes and sizes. Whilst Brexit and Trump have created a lot of uncertainty and potential for change, one thing impacting small businesses has stayed the same: The proliferation of online information.

Our march into the digital world has accelerated and continues to take over every aspect of our lives. This is driving the success of millions of small businesses worldwide. But, the typical small business owner doesn’t have a clear view of this online information and importantly, how it is used by other people to make decisions. Not effectively managing your business’s digital profile across your website, social media channels, online customer reviews, company financials and credit score, can lead to loss of customers, damage to your business’ reputation, unfavourable payment terms, or restricted access to finance and services to support growth.

Handle, the digital performance app for small businesses, recently launched their Q2 Small Business Insight report that highlights areas UK small businesses are currently thriving and where they need to improve. The report uncovers the digital health of UK small businesses, the challenges faced by specific industries and the breakdown of traditional regional boundaries.

Download the full Handle Q2 report

98% of UK small businesses don’t have high performing websites

The overwhelming theme for small business website performance is not that they are bad, but that so few are good. Just 2% of UK small businesses have a high performing website, with a massive 88% simply being average. Leaving the remaining 10% of small businesses with poorly performing websites.

Though the stragglers have finally boarded the digital bandwagon, simply having a website and dabbling with a bit of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) won’t cut it any more. The businesses pushing the boundaries and challenging their own capability across every aspect of their website, from mobile optimisation or link building to online security, are seeing increasingly positive results. Their websites generate more traffic, deliver more leads and ultimately, drive more sales.

Social media is no longer a mystery

Adoption of social media for small businesses has been slow but changes in consumer behaviour and the online dominance of platforms like Facebook, has encouraged continued application of social media for most small businesses. 76% of small businesses are actively using social media in their digital strategy, but still almost a quarter, 23%, are under-performing.

Small social followings, combined with algorithmic updates from social platforms, limit reach, and prevent many small businesses from unlocking of the viral power of social media.

The biggest challenge is cutting through the noise. Creating content that is interesting, valuable and relevant to customers is a hugely time consuming and can be costly. However, as with the trend in website performance, the businesses that commit to social channels and align activity to business goals are the ones moving away from their competition.

Customer feedback is being ignored

In the first Handle small business insights report, it was discovered that 87% of small businesses never respond to online customer feedback. This theme continues in Q2, with only 2% of small businesses actively using online customer review in their digital strategy.

It seems that time and resource poor small business owners aren’t able to prioritise gathering online feedback. Adoption may be slow generally, but the impact to a small business could potentially be transformational across a number of areas. Aside from the obvious benefit of collecting direct feedback from current active customers to improve products and services, online feedback platforms can also help boost website SEO performance - delivering more website visitors. They can help turn those visitors into customers as a recent study from Bright Local found ‘84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation’. (Bright Local - https://www.brightlocal.com/learn/local-consumer-review-survey/)

With the amount of free feedback platforms available across platforms, such as Google and Facebook, small businesses should actively start adding online reviews into their digital strategy.

Cash flow is still king

The number one thing that keeps small business owners awake at night is their ability to pay bills and staff. The great news is that over half of small business have a strong business credit score, so suppliers will be more inclined to offer favourable payment terms access to finance is broadly available.

With only 1.2% of small businesses having a poor business credit score, this indicates that they tend to pay their bills and settle their obligations. Unfortunately, the picture is less rosy when looking at the financial health of small businesses. Paying back that debt and covering liabilities in the business doesn’t leave much in the bank at the end of the year. Rising costs mean profit margins are being squeezed, leading to tighter financial controls and a lack of options for investment or sales generation activity.

Juggling these key elements is something that all small business owners have to manage.. Handle helps surface all of these elements, so small business owners can take steps to increase profitability and invest in activity that generates sales, ensuring a robust and sustainable business.

Get a Handle on your business today. Free for 30 days.

What is Handle?

Handle is an online platform that helps UK small business owners increase sales, improve payment terms and access the finance they need to flourish by monitoring, managing and improving their entire digital profile.