While all businesses have been affected in some way by COVID-19, arguably no segment has been challenged as hard as small and medium businesses (SMBs). Many SMBs have been forced to close permanently due to restrictions and evaporating demand. The ones that are still alive have undergone a tumultuous change in how they need to do business, and this new way of working is likely here to stay even as the COVID-19 curve slides down.

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As is the case with many other businesses, the pandemic has forced SMBs’ employees to work from home—either full time or occasionally—and pressured SMBs to accelerate the addition and use of digital channels for commerce and collaboration. In turn, this has led to an urgent need among SMBs for additional technologies to bridge the gap between digital and in-person experiences and to further ensure employee and customer safety. In some cases, SMBs also had to reduce the facilities and physical real estate they occupy in the short and possibly long term.

While these moves are creating significant opportunities for high-tech companies to step up and provide the technologies and related messages that resonate with SMBs, there are still significant headwinds as they continue to address and respond to the challenges COVID-19 has put before them. 

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Employee Tech—Shifting to a Distributed Workforce

According to a recent survey, approximately 70% of SMBs in the United States have implemented or expanded work-from-home measures due to COVID-19. As companies shift their employees, they’ll need to increase the number of company-provided laptops, headsets, and handsets—which is a boon for providers of this equipment (e.g., cameras, second monitors, and virtual whiteboards) and well-supports the explosion in digital collaboration.

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Cloud and as-a-Service—Accelerating Digital Channels

With COVID-19 causing some SMBs to shrink their physical footprint and move to digital channels for commerce and collaboration, an opportunity arises for high-tech providers to help that transition with offerings that don't require on-premise enterprise technology. This shift to the security, simplicity, reliability, and affordability of a private vendor-hosted, hybrid, or public cloud and potentially an associated as-a-Service offerings. 

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Internet of Things—Connecting Online and Offline

SMBs are leading the charge to connecting online and offline, particularly retailers that have had to quickly bolster their online shopping capabilities (in some cases for the first time) and figure out how to make in-store and curb-side pickup work. This has created a strong need for IoT technologies, most notably scanning and the extension of mobile point-of-sale solutions. As companies continue to emphasize track and trace, mobile vaccine verification and workplace management, IoT will become even more important for those returning to the office or store.

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The fact is, the SMB market today is exploding for high-tech providers as SMBs increasingly turn to technologies to strengthen their resilience and ensure business continuity in order to survive. The question, though, is how to find the opportunities in a market that’s not only expansive, but also diverse. Insight on SMB challenges are paramount for high-tech companies to craft relevant offers and avoid missing out on chances to bolster customer relationships or create new ones. If done right, high-tech companies can quickly recognize the demand signals and respond with the right offers and engagement.

One answer is to leverage a capability like Accenture’s Intelligent Revenue Growth (IRG) platform. IRG brings together the right data and advanced AI and machine learning models to help high-tech companies identify SMB behaviors that signal a potential need for an offer; create and execute campaigns to engage prospects with highly personalized communications and offerings; and ultimately qualify prospects and inspire the purchase.

At its core, IRG collects rich and relevant data: It starts with a treasure trove of customer data, which IRG augments with industry-specific and third-party data, as well as “dark” data available across the web (websites, news outlets, and social media channels)—all of which is fed into advanced AI and machine learning models for analysis. With this capability, a high-tech company could, for instance, identify all the SMBs that recently announced termination of leases and the closure of stores or offices, and then create highly tailored proposals that can help the SMBs make that transition.  All at a price that fits an SMB’s budget. As the high-tech provider continues to have conversations with SMB prospects, IRG’s AI and ML models generate additional insights on the prospects and can help the provider close the sale.

IRG can be a true game-changer for companies—like high-tech providers—feeling the pressure to boost their top and bottom lines. IRG can help high-tech providers sort through the vast, disparate, and complex SMB landscape to identify where SMBs are in their COVID-19 response journeys. This understanding allows a provider to adapt to specific intents and provide solutions that best meet an SMBs’ needs. In a forever-changed business landscape, this is a prescriptive recipe for ongoing relevance and profitable growth.

Disclaimer: This content is provided for general information purposes and is not intended to be used in place of consultation with our professional advisors.
Copyright © 2021 Accenture. All rights reserved. Accenture and its logo are registered trademarks of Accenture.

Ben Quirt

Managing Director – Strategy & Consulting, North America

Padampreet Singh

Managing Director – Accenture Applied Intelligence

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