The UK’s small retailers plan to invest in new technology in the year ahead as part of strategies to drive business growth and improve customer experience, according to the latest research from American Express.
Asked about how they planned to safeguard their business this year, the survey of independent retail and hospitality business owners found that spending on new technology topped the list (30%). Just over a quarter (26%) plan to ramp up sales and marketing activity, while a similar amount (24%) said they would bolster their online sales capabilities, as they look to unlock additional consumer spending. Overall, more than a quarter of those surveyed (28%) said attracting new customers is a challenge.
The survey also highlighted that just over a third (34%) will be sharpening their focus on customer experience in 2024, with the goal of building loyalty and further boosting sales. Technology spend could play an important role in achieving this, with over two-fifths (43%) of retailers indicating that they had bolstered their business tech ahead of the festive peak period in order to create a better experience for customers.
Previously released data from the research found that these small business owners are remarkably upbeat about their growth prospects in 2024; 89% expect to grow over the next 12 months, and 93% feel confident about the future of their business.
It’s encouraging to see so many of the UK’s small retailers entering 2024 with an optimistic outlook. However, they know that they can’t stand still if they want to grow their business. Investing in new technology unlocks operational efficiencies, frees up valuable resource and ultimately improves the customer experience. With more small merchants on our network than ever before, our focus at American Express is backing these businesses to help drive sales now and in the future.– Dan Edelman, General Manager, UK Merchant Services, American Express
Last month saw American Express continue its long-standing backing of small businesses through its flagship Shop Small campaign, which encourages American Express’ loyal Cardmembers to spend instore with small businesses.
A fresh focus on collaboration
As well as being clear about investment priorities to drive business growth, respondents also revealed a renewed spirit of fraternity, with just under eight in 10 (79%) of the small business owners surveyed agreeing that collaboration between local community businesses had increased over the past year.
Almost three quarters (74%) said they always try to work with local, independent suppliers where possible, and the same proportion (74%) agreed it was important that small businesses team up to navigate the current uncertain economic climate.