The latest Lloyds Bank Business and Charity Index reveals that nearly half (48 per cent) of South West SME organisations lack the basic digital skills that could drive growth.
By embracing digital skills, the report claims that UK businesses could generate “an additional £85billion” in turnover. Yet “only 22 per cent” of South West businesses are gaining a transactional benefit from trading online in the UK. This figure falls further when it comes to targeting international markets, and “just seven per cent” of South West businesses use online channels to export.
The report also found that “only eight per cent” of South West businesses use digital channels to search and discover growth opportunities for their business. It goes on to state that “worryingly” more than a third (35 per cent) of South West SMEs have “no interest” in developing their cybersecurity capability.
But, for those businesses who are embracing advanced technologies including cloud IT, online accounting software and digital training tools there is the opportunity to generate “more than £100,000” in extra annual turnover, compared to those who have none.
According to Lloyds, the benefits can go beyond finances too, with 2.5million businesses (nationally) saving time through digital, more than “twice as many” compared to 2014. Small businesses and charities with advanced digital capabilities are able to save “a day a week” according to the report.
Stephen Noakes, Lloyds Banking Group’s ambassador for the South West, said: “The South West is home to more than 71,000 enterprises and is the base for some of the country’s leading names in digital, technology and manufacturing.
“As the world becomes more connected, it’s important for businesses and charities to have a strong online presence and the digital capabilities to attract new business or supporters, both in the UK and overseas. With this in mind, it’s disappointing to see that just 22 per cent and seven per cent respectively of SME organisations are using their digital channels to do this.”
He continued: “With more than 1,600 specially trained digital champions in the South West, we are helping the region’s businesses and charities develop their skills to facilitate growth, as part of our Helping Britain Prosper plan. Over the coming 12 months, we will continue to provide free to access training events for SMEs, to help them close the digital skills gap.”
One organisation that’s embraced digital advancements is Exeter Leukaemia Fund (ELF) which, over the past 12 months, has implemented a digital strategy and saved “around £100,000.”
Pictured above: Stephen Noakes