Despite the many challenges facing the UK economy, including the ongoing concern around Brexit, it seems the country’s small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are feeling remarkably buoyant.
According to research by payments solutions provider Elavon – a subsidiary of US Bancorp – 60 per cent of UK SMEs feel positive about growth prospects, 70 per cent feel optimistic in general and 68 per cent believe there are more opportunities now than there were ten years ago.
“SMEs make up the largest proportion of our customers, and a significant portion of the private sector business in the UK,” says Colin Close, managing director, UK & international corporate, at Elavon. “Understanding their perceptions and concerns is critical. Our research highlights that businesses are positive about their growth.”
There are, however, a number of concerns which threaten to hold back the nation’s SMEs. The study found that only just over half (53 per cent) of small firms trade online, and nearly 23 per cent do not even have a website. Many prefer to build their business by word of mouth or rely on a local or high-street presence but, given the prevalence of social media and the growth of e-commerce, not having the ability to trade online is likely to act as a brake on growth, and a barrier to delivering the kind of service customers now expect.
Then there’s cashflow. Elavon’s research suggests this is the biggest concern for 39 per cent of SMEs, ranking second behind Brexit (51 per cent) – hardly surprising when BACS estimates UK SMEs lose around £2 billion a year as a result of late payments.
But new methods, such as mobile wallet and in-app payments, present new opportunities for businesses, with faster payments meaning transferred funds can be cleared on the same working day. “While SMEs once lacked choice in payment options, that’s not the case today,” says Close. “It’s surprising that SMEs haven’t fully explored and embraced apps and payment technologies that could bring the security, efficiency and speed in cashflow they clearly seek.”
The next generation of point- of-sale terminals offers far greater functionality to customers than merely taking card payments. Elavon’s new Poynt terminals allow businesses to take payments anywhere – in stores, on a smartphone, or through mobile wallets – and see transactions and settlements in real time. They also include an in-built app market place that enables businesses to choose a range of apps for their own needs, including order-ahead functionality and even the ability for employees to check in to work on the devices.
An effective payments solution can also help businesses get online. Elavon recently joined forces with ePages to develop the eShop – an e-commerce platform that can be accessed through its payments gateway to allow retailers to build a branded online presence, including integrating with social media and incorporating built-in search engine optimisation functionality. “It will help merchants develop and synchronise their online and in-store presence so that they can focus on growth,” says Close. “It will help make small firms more competitive against the big boys.”
For more information on how Elavon can help your business, visit www.elavon.ie