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How upgrading tech is set to help British businesses bounce back this summer

20th May 2021

  • New report shows local, independent, and sustainable businesses are set to benefit in predicted post-pandemic boom with Brits set to spend a massive £159 billion in the next 6 months1
  • To prepare for the summer of spending, 58% of small businesses have made upgrades, with 26% of them upgrading their online presence, 15% moving away from cash payments to contactless, and a tenth introducing online booking systems
  • Two-thirds (61%) of Brits agree technology can help businesses create a safer environment
  • Small Business Britain and Smart Energy GB reveal how tech upgrades can help small businesses maximise their profits for the busy summer ahead

A new report, which surveys 2,000 UK adults and 1,000 small business owners reveals the swell in support for British business. Since the pandemic began nearly half (47%) of the country has made a conscious effort to shop local and over 4 in 10 have dined out locally. This isn’t just a short-term trend, as 56% claim they will continue to support local businesses.

To cope with this influx of customers and keep track of their costs small businesses have introduced new technology with over a quarter (26%) upgrading their online presence, 15% introducing contactless payment systems, a tenth now taking online bookings for the first time, and 44% embracing a smart meter to keep an eye on their energy usage.

Customers have embraced these changes with 43% finding ordering via an app easy and convenient, 61% believe contactless payment is the way forward, and nearly two-thirds (61%) agree technology can help small businesses create a safer environment for customers.

Given nearly half (42%) of the nation are more likely to visit a business that cares about being sustainable, businesses have also been considering their eco credentials when making tech upgrades including taking control of their energy spend. 44% of microbusinesses are now smart meter users, with 1 in 10 (11%) installing a smart meter since the start of the pandemic and a further 25% saying they have either applied for one or plan to get one. Of those who have had one installed, three quarters (76%) say they are more conscious about their businesses’ energy usage which has led to an average estimated monthly utility bill saving of £32.80, that’s a huge £394 a year!

To help small businesses meet the demands of the summer of spending, Smart Energy GB has partnered with Small Business Britain and The Gadget Show’s Jason Bradbury to share how embracing tech upgrades, especially those that can help make them safer and more sustainable like smart meters, will ensure they’re ready for the busy summer of spending.

Jason Bradbury, famed for his time on The Gadget Show, is part of a new campaign to encourage businesses to embrace tech that helps them take back control of their energy usageand be more sustainable. Jason says:

“This pandemic has shown that embracing technology can be really good for business. Many tech upgrades come at no or very little cost and not only make businesses more efficient but also more sustainable.

“That’s why I’ve teamed up with Small Business Britain and Smart Energy GB to encourage businesses to embrace all the tech upgrades they can get – including asking for a smart meter which can help put them in control of their energy bills and make them more sustainable. 75% of small business owners said it made them more conscious of their energy usage.”

The six tech upgrades for small businesses should be asking for include:

  1. Go contactless! Customers rarely carry cash now and contactless payment limits have been raised during lockdown to make paying with a tap even easier. And, it’s not just convenient for consumers, contactless payments can help reduce the risk associated with handling cash and cut down on your admin[i]
  2. Upgrade your business broadband – Slow and unreliable Wi-Fi is the last thing you need when trying to accept bookings or take payments (particularly outdoors) so making sure you have a speedy connection can really boost your business
  3. Use the cloud – migrating to cloud software can reduce maintenance costs and increase accessibility for eCommerce, accounting, planning and inventory management, and what’s more it can lower risk when it comes to cyber-security, and help you avoid losing files![ii]
  4. Make sure your website is mobile friendly! Google algorithms prioritise mobile-friendly websites so make sure you’re giving you page a chance and streamlining it for mobile and tablet tech. With so many consumers now discovering businesses via social media, and expecting to book and shop with them via these routes, this is increasingly vital.
  5. Contact your energy supplier to ask if you are eligible for a smart meter. Not only will it put you in control of your energy usage with accurate bills meaning you only pay for the energy you use, but it benefits the environment and can also help you see the value of making further sustainable changes such as installing energy efficient lighting
  6. Stay plugged into digital support – many small businesses have spent time in lockdown improving their digital capability. This needs to continue as we move into stages of recovery, as consumer trends and technology keep evolving. Make the most of all the free help and advice out there to do this, and see digital skills as a core business muscle that you need to carry on training and flexing.

Michelle Ovens CBE, founder of Small Business Britain said:

“A positive by-product of the pandemic has been the growth in digital skills and faster adoption of new technologies by businesses in nearly every sector - whether that’s shops going cashless, pubs offering pints through an app or restaurants installing a smart meter to improve their energy usage. The predicted ‘summer of spending’ will be a great thing for Britain’s small businesses. It is good to see so many small firms moving quickly to make the most of this. Many have used the last year as valuable time to reset their direction and make important improvements to optimise their performance.”

Smart Energy GB’s Fflur Lawton said:

“The last 18 months have been incredibly tough for businesses but with the world starting to re-open, we’re all looking forward to a busy summer. Many businesses have been looking at ways they can optimise themselves and the experience of their customers, by upgrading their booking systems or getting a smart meter installed to gain more control over their business’ energy spend.

“Smart meters are available for businesses and installations are happening now, with 44% of microbusinesses already choosing to upgrade. Every single smart meter installed across Great Britain is a positive step towards a smarter and more sustainable energy system.”

Smart meters are available for businesses and installations are now taking place across Great Britain. To check if you’re eligible for a smart meter, contact your business energy supplier or visit smartenergygb.org/get-a-smart-meter

-ENDS-

Notes to editors

  1. Opinium research. 1004 small business owners and nationally representative sample of 2002 adults 11 - 14 May 2021
  2. [i] https://smallbusiness.co.uk/how-to-sell-anywhere-with-contactless-payments-2551875/
  3. [ii] https://magazine.startus.cc/5-tech-upgrades-consider-business/

About smart meters and the rollout

Smart meters are the next generation of digital gas and electricity meters, providing automatic meter readings and near-real time energy use information for households.

Smart meters and the information they provide will help Britain to achieve net zero by allowing for better management of energy demand and supply, providing people with the visibility needed to reduce their usage, and making the best and most efficient use of wind and solar power. Innovative technology and services enabled by smart metering is pivotal in allowing our country to decarbonise and have more electric vehicles.

Smart meters are available from energy suppliers at no extra cost, and the accompanying in-home display shows energy use in pounds and pence. 23.6 million smart meters have already been installed across Britain.

About Smart Energy GB

Smart Energy GB is the not-for-profit, government-backed campaign helping everyone in Britain to understand the importance of smart meters and their benefits to people and the environment. Our national campaign is reaching homes and microbusinesses across England, Scotland and Wales. For more information visit smartenergyGB.org

Microbusinesses

Small businesses with fewer than ten employees, or their full time equivalent, may be eligible for a smart meter. Smart meters can bring many benefits to microbusinesses, such as sending energy readings directly to energy suppliers, meaning accurate bills and an end to manual meter readings. They also give business owners the opportunity to monitor how much energy your premises is using, in pounds and pence, every day, week and month. Even businesses in rented premises can make the decision about whether to get a smart meter, providing you pay your energy bill. If your landlord pays your energy bills, speak with them about getting a smart meter for your building.

The non-domestic smart meter rollout differs from the domestic programme in a number of ways, the primary way being the availability and cost of the meters to businesses. This varies from supplier to supplier and businesses should contact their energy provider for more information.