According to research conducted by the O2 Business Barometer, 76% of businesses in Britain will require more Government support in 2017 to keep their competitive advantage and experience further growth in the face of economic uncertainty and the upcoming Brexit.
O2 surveyed 1,200 businesses of all sizes in both the private and public sectors in December 2016 and revealed a strong desire by British companies for the Government to make pro-business measures a top priority in the coming year. O2’s report identified five focus areas for these measures: reducing red tape (64%), improving access to technology and connectivity (48%), increasing access to funding (41%), improving access to talent/training (39%) and improving trade agreements (37%).
Also, 73% of the companies surveyed said that employee productivity is a key factor in driving business growth, whilst 78% emphasised efficiencies in operations.
Despite the strong call for Government assistance, the report indicated a positive outlook for UK businesses in 2017, with 64% planning to enter new market areas and 69% planning to launch new products or services. Technology will also be an important factor in commercial growth according to 80% of the respondents, as consumer demand for connectivity and digital electronics continues to increase.
According to Ofcom, more than 80% of adults own a smartphone, and nearly 75% access the Internet using a mobile device. In keeping with these statistics, 33% of businesses expect more consumer demand to access their services or products via mobile devices in the coming year, and 38% believe that there will be more interaction with their customers via digital means, such as social media, live chat and email.
Given the greater use of digital communication, 59% of businesses said that they would benefit from increased connectivity, whilst only 46% indicated that they would benefit from improved physical infrastructure.
Ben Dowd, Sales Director at O2, stated: “The O2 Business Barometer offers a stark reminder that mobile technology is now a vital part of modern life and business, and it’s transforming our economy. For us to continue to deliver a customer-centred digital transformation, it has to be supported by further digital infrastructure investment.
“The Government has set out its plans for a ‘world-class digital infrastructure.’ Now it’s time for action. We need collective effort from Government and industry to make sure businesses across Britain have access to the technology and connectivity they need to keep up with their customers’ demands, achieve growth and remain competitive on the global stage.”
Emma Jones, Founder of Enterprise Nation, concurred: “This research shows what we know to be true: that there is a way to go when it comes to small businesses making the most of the digital opportunity. What’s required is a healthy dose of training and education – and measures to boost levels of confidence in digital skills. This is what Enterprise Nation strives to do with global brands and key UK partners, so all small businesses can have equal opportunity to build a home on the Web, work in the cloud, work on the move and raise profile, whilst doing this on a budget. It’s been a key target for us in 2016 and will remain a priority area for the New Year and beyond.”