RESEARCH REPORT

In brief

In brief

  • SMBs are the world’s most powerful growth engine—the principal driver of global growth, accounting for 99 percent of all companies in many geographies.
  • An undifferentiated “mass-market” sales, marketing, or service approach won’t make the right impression.
  • SMBs, just like their larger counterparts, want to take advantage of new digital technologies but struggle to realize the benefits of adopting them.
  • In a world in which honesty and experience matter, three key trends lie behind SMBs’ appetite to adopt new digital tools.


Platform companies that overlook small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) do so at their peril. Why? SMBs account for a large and fast-growing proportion of today’s global economy. In fact, in many ways, SMBs are the world’s most powerful growth engine—the principal driver of global growth, accounting for approximately 99 percent of all companies in many geographies.

SMBs, just like their larger counterparts, are keen to take advantage of new digital technologies. But many of them struggle to realize the benefits of adopting them. That’s underlined by a recent AT&T survey which reported that while 75 percent of SMBs are eager to embrace new technology, 30 percent find its adoption a challenge.

75%

of SMBs are eager to embrace new technology.

30%

of SMBs find the adoptions of technology a challenge.

In APAC, 59 percent of SMBs that have already adopted digital tools said they do not plan to increase their investments in digital platforms. Their reasons? For them, these tools and services either lack the relevance required to actually solve their business problems or offer inadequate ROI. They also have a real fear of privacy and security breaches.

In a world in which honesty and experience matter, three key trends lie behind SMBs’ appetite to adopt new digital tools.

Trend 1. Every interaction counts

More than just giving SMBs the support and guidance, platform companies must translate what their digital tools can actually “DO” for each SMB.

Every interaction with SMBs must be informed, personalized and demonstrate an understanding of where each SMB is in their business.

Best-in-class platform companies help SMBs pivot early from experimentation and trials to operationalizing rollouts and the kind of activation that enables them to maximize new opportunities and access economies of scale. Going beyond clear analysis of ROI delivered, platform leaders in the SMB space are proving the value they bring to SMBs early in the relationship. Each of their interactions, across all stages of an SMB’s business lifecycle, are designed to educate and train SMBs on exactly HOW their digital tools enable growth.

Trend 2. Only the relevant will thrive

Platform companies need to make sure they really understand who the SMB is on the “other side of the screen.” That’s less about understanding their revenues, much more about securing insights into the age of the company, its industry sector and the number of people it employs. Only then will it start to be possible to offer them something they really need. Put it another way: simply pushing content at SMBs won’t help them make decisions that drive ROI.

Trend 3. The millennials have landed

Millennials are shifting paradigms everywhere. To really get to know SMBs, platform companies need to get to know millennials. Over the next 15 years, these digital natives are the people who will be running and staffing SMBs. They have only known a digitally enabled workplace and translate this knowledge into powerful expectations in today’s work environment. And their fluid buying behaviors are very different: Whether they’re working in the procurement department or sitting in front of their laptops at home, they buy in a very B2C way, with recommendations and relevance as prime motivators. While they bring digital to the table, much like millennial-driven trends in healthcare and investing, they demand much more than the status quo.



So now what?

The key question for many companies: How can they move SMBs along the adoption curve? It’s no easy task to migrate non-digital SMBs to become early adopters or to evolve born-digital SMBs to become the leading 20 percent who benefit most significantly from the adoption of online tools and platforms. But there is a strong argument to be made for doing so: Digitally-savvy SMBs have consistently higher revenue growth projections, improved confidence in their future and, crucially for platform companies, solid plans to increase their digital investments and grow in new markets.

The SMB marketplace holds enormous promise for platform companies. However, SMBs have specific issues that must be addressed to create successful outcomes. Drawing on our experience, we know the paths to platform success in the SMB market. Experience, honesty and expectations matter to SMBs. Show up. Not just once—but consistently show up as a partner in SMB growth and evolution. Invest the time, effort and money to help THEM succeed today, tomorrow and down the road—wherever their future may take them.

Kevin Collins

Managing Director – Software & Platforms, Global Innovation & Offerings


​Jacqueline Morgan

Principal Director – Software & Platforms

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APAC SMBs: Realizing the platform opportunity
Podcast: Why SMBs matter: Market relevance
Loyalty is over: Constant relevance is in

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