SMEs from across the UK – including those in non-consumer-facing sectors – are increasingly moving their operations online, according to Close Brothers Asset Finance’s latest research.

Survey findings of 900 SMEs – conducted during the second lockdown – revealed businesses are becoming more online-based, with 28.3% moving day-to-day operations online, while 26% have seen an increase in online trading, and 9.1% a blend of the two. The remaining 36.6% have made no changes. 

With the move to online has come an increase in capital investment in firms’ digital infrastructure, with 60% of businesses committing to spending more on this key activity.

Businesses were split between investing in hardware or software when asked which was a priority:

  • Hardware: 39%
  • Software: 39%
  • Both: 22%

Cash is continuing to play less of a role as a way to make payments as online card payments – by a considerable margin – have become the most popular way to take payment during the pandemic, well ahead of both cash and chip & pin payments. 

The survey – conducted by Kantar in late November 2020 – canvassed the opinion of SME owners across the UK and Ireland covering several industries on a range of issues.

Neil Davies, chief executive of Close Brothers Asset Finance and Leasing, said: “We already live in a highly digitised world but it appears the pandemic has super-charged firms’ digital investment plans.

“From our own experience, we started our own digital transformation prior to the pandemic; this allowed us to quickly adapt to the ‘new normal’ while continuing to provide a seamless service for our customers.

“Had we not done this our customer service would undoubtedly have been impacted. From a commercial point of view, it was absolutely the right thing for us to do, despite the upfront – and ongoing – costs.”

Close Brothers

Close Brothers Asset Finance is a member of the FTSE 250 listed Close Brothers Group. Close Brothers is a UK merchant banking group that employs over 3,500 people, principally in the UK.