Accenture’s SMB series has gone global: our study finds that if enterprises can get three key actions right, they can unlock and win SMBs globally, at scale

Growth has never been more important than it is today. Across all industries, business leaders are tasked with finding new sources of growth by exploring new products, new customer segments, and new geographies. As our previous research has emphatically shown, small and medium businesses (SMBs) are a massive untapped source of growth opportunities.

We have made it our mission to help enterprises realize and capture this valuable customer base – in past essays (If enterprises build trust, SMBs will spend and Don’t tell me, show me), we found that enterprises have consistently missed the mark in understanding and meeting SMB needs in the United States (US) and need to take targeted actions to garner their trust and budgets. However, the US is just the tip of the iceberg.

SMBs play a central role throughout the global economy and represent a massive opportunity for global enterprise (software and platform) growth – according to the World Economic Forum, “Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which represent around 90% of all firms globally, provide roughly 70% of all employment and, by some estimates, contribute to up to 70% of global GDP”1. As SMBs represent the latest untapped growth opportunity for platforms (that are increasingly exhausting and saturating their traditional customer bases), it is more important than ever to get the global SMB opportunity right. To uncover the success factors for winning this significant customer base around the world, Accenture expanded our US-based research to 5,000+ SMBs across 11 different countries on six continents.

Our research reveals that while not all SMBs are the same, they share three key similarities globally. In this essay, we will show how these similarities reveal a global blueprint that, if followed, will enable enterprises to capture the global SMB opportunity at scale.

Here are the surprising SMB similarities we found across the globe:

1. The SMB/enterprise relationship gap persists

The trust, care, understanding, and relationship perception gap between SMBs and enterprises, unearthed in our US research, persists globally.

While 86% of enterprises believe their organization cares for its SMB customers, just 64% of SMBs think the same2. In much the same way, 85% of enterprises feel they have strong relationships with their SMB customers, compared to 64% of SMBs who share that sentiment2.

This gap really matters because these perceptions have real-world consequences. Globally, SMBs that report having a strong relationship with an enterprise vendor are 13% more likely to increase spend with them and are less likely to churn2.

Perception gap between SMBs and enterprise partners

Perception gap between SMBs and enterprise partners

*Proportion of SMBs who do not purchase products from enterprise partners.
Source: Accenture Proprietary Research. SMB-Enterprise Global Survey.

2. SMBs want personalization

The majority of SMBs pointed to personalization across the purchase journey, from discovery to support, as a top factor for gaining their business.

This trend not only held, but was even more pronounced globally as SMBs urge enterprises to better understand and meet their unique requirements. Enterprises making SMB-specific solutions are also perceived to better understand, connect with and care for SMB customers.

They also point to specific ways enterprises can provide more personalized experiences throughout the purchase journey. Globally, SMBs are 31% more likely to feel that enterprise vendors understand their business when they offer personalized recommendations2. In some instances, there are even opportunities for enterprises to monetize these personalized services because 80% of SMBs across the world would consider paying more to receive better customer support2.

SMBs consider paying to get better customer support

SMBs consider paying to get better customer support

N=5,048. Respondents that strongly agree, agree or are neutral to paying more for better customer support.
Source: Accenture Proprietary Research. SMB-Enterprise Global Survey.

3. Digital savviness is crucial for SMB success

Both within the US and globally, SMBs’ common focus on growing revenues, retaining customers, and finding new ones is more challenging than ever.

In response, many SMBs globally have invested in digital tools and services to stand up remote working and new sales channels. Forty-two percent of SMBs have bought collaboration and digital commerce services, 39% invested in digital marketing and 38% took their first step into online marketplace services within the past year2. Sixty percent of SMBs that had already made digital investments have increased their spending on these solutions during the last 12 months2.

Across product types, from digital commerce tools to collaboration tools to professional and cloud services, “digitally-savvy” SMBs (those that are more digitally inclined and operate more of their business online) are 8-13% more likely to trust and buy from enterprises2. This makes digitally-savvy SMBs an especially attractive segment to target globally.

But not all SMBs have been able to make this transition to digital savviness. As we found in the US, SMBs globally are at very different stages of digital maturity. And this has a marked impact on their performance. Half of the businesses in our survey that are “digital stragglers” reported decreased revenue from 2019 to 2020 from the pandemic. Comparatively, only 38% of those considered “digitally-savvy” SMBs said their revenues had dipped2.

Global SMB similarities reveal a blueprint for unlocking the global SMB opportunity at scale

Our global results show that SMBs around the world share a core set of business challenges and buying preferences that have a direct impact on their willingness to buy products and services from enterprises:

1. Relationship development

SMBs globally share a strong desire to work with and spend with enterprises with which they have a genuine, trusted relationship.

2. Personalization

Among SMBs, there is an emphatic, universal demand for more personalized products and interactions throughout the customer lifecycle.

3. Digital savviness

Across the globe, SMBs have a growing need to increase their digital acumen and savviness.

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These similarities reveal clear success factors that will work equally well for SMBs in all markets:

  1. Demonstrate commitment to SMB relationships: Showcase understanding of common SMB needs and priorities by pricing SMB-specific products and solutions more affordable. This is the #1 action enterprises can take to win SMB business. Segment SMB engagement and offerings by multiple (3-4+) factors, including digital maturity at a minimum, to demonstrate commitment to the uniqueness of SMBs, which are tired of being treated as a single, monolithic market.
  2. Invest in SMB personalization: Build products specifically for SMBs vs rebranding enterprise products. Establish dedicated team(s) to support SMBs specifically and holistically across the customer journey, providing SMB-specific recommendations in the discovery phase and premium, SMB-specific support in later stages.
  3. Target and incubate digitally-savvy SMBs: Target more digitally-savvy SMBs that are more inclined to adopt and spend on enterprise products for immediate sales capture. Invest in helping SMB digital stragglers move up the curve to build trust, strengthen the relationship and create financial returns through retention with initiatives like technology-oriented learning and training.

The importance of SMB segmentation

The importance of SMB segmentation

N=5,048. Source: Accenture Proprietary Research. SMB-Enterprise Global Survey.

Enterprises that understand global SMB similarities and capitalize on their universal needs and preferences can more effectively create relevant products, business models, and customer engagement models that can be scaled to capture SMBs around the world.

What’s next?

Having identified these similarities and common success factors for engaging SMBs across the globe, our next endeavor will be to explore the characteristics and engagement factors that are unique across SMBs in different regions so enterprises can build on their common global foundation to hyper-target priority markets.

Stay tuned for more essays and insights where we’ll outline how platforms can maximize their global SMB growth opportunity by overlaying their global SMB strategies with region-specific tactics. We will also be sharing some of our newest research on the SMBs developed during COVID.


1 WEF, “Future Readiness of SMEs: Mobilizing the SME Sector to Drive Widespread Sustainability and Prosperity”, 2021

2 Accenture Analysis. Global SMB Perceptions Study, May 2021

About the Authors

Stephanie Gorski

Managing Director – Accenture Strategy, Software & Platforms

Ben Socher

Manager – Accenture Strategy, Software & Platforms

Brennan Torres

Consultant – Accenture Strategy, Software & Platforms

Caroline Olivero

Consultant – Accenture Strategy, Software & Platforms


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