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Empiraa Market Research: Key challenges and opportunities for SMEs

Empiraa’s latest market research study surveyed 618 business owners, entrepreneurs, CEO’s and managers in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and explored the current challenges facing them in 2023.

The findings provide vital learnings as businesses evolve with changing markets in 2024.  

Key Findings:

Technology integration proves a crucial hurdle

  • A staggering 89% of businesses face challenges in integrating new technology, with smaller businesses (0-25 employees) feeling the impact more severely.
  • This highlights a critical need for guidance as businesses look to transform their businesses towards digital solutions. 

People and Culture is a balancing act

  • 70% of businesses find hiring new team members challenging, and yet only 33% are very satisfied with their current team. 
  • With three-quarters of businesses looking to improve company culture, there’s a clear focus on creating positive and productive work environments with the right people.

Planning for the Future

  • 63% of businesses recognize the need to diversify their products/services in the near future, with 15% considering it urgent, underlining the importance of innovation and adaptability. 
  • Only 28% of all business owners surveyed were happy with the level of visibility they had over their business. This decreased the lower the surveyor’s position was. This points to the need for robust business planning that the whole organisation is across as well as the ability to anticipate and respond to market changes.

What do these stats mean?

Technology is by far the most challenging area for the majority of SMEs. The stats show that small businesses are at risk of falling behind because of their inability to adapt with their rapidly changing industry.

Businesses may need to look to implementation services that help educate them on the platforms and services they are using so they are adequately trained to use those technologies to their full capabilities. Ultimately those that manage to adapt to the new tech will have a competitive edge against their competitors.

The current challenges of hiring people has been a topic of conversation for many months and the results from our survey back that up. Finding skilled employees that are competent for the role being asked of them and are also a great cultural fit for the team is a big challenge. There is a strong correlation between a great team and good workplace culture so SMEs should continue to look for the right people for their workplace. Managing your people and resources so that staff are not overworked and have clear guidelines for their role requirements can all help increase good culture. Businesses should look at these types of processes over performative acts like team lunches and “fun” team activities.

63% of SMEs say they need to diversify their products/services in the near future and another 15% said urgently. With unforeseen market changes being the most challenging aspects for businesses to plan for, the study shows that businesses need to be prepared but also have the ability to be agile and adapt quickly when needed. 

40% of businesses surveyed don’t have internal marketing teams and yet 64% of those people listed lack of expertise as their biggest marketing challenge. It seems that many SMEs cannot see value in having in-house marketing, and yet they are struggling to market their businesses and create a strategy around how to do so. The answer to that problem seems simple. With an area of business that can be subjective in what success looks like, SMEs will need to get their head around the value good marketing can create that does not always correlate with profit.

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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