Importance of automation for SMBs

Automation has become a key tool for businesses, especially for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). A study from Xerox shows that a large number of SMBs recognize how important automation is for their survival strategies. 

Statistics from the study indicate that 82% of SMBs give priority to converting their paperwork into digital formats, while 75% have increased their reliance on workflow technologies following the pandemic. Furthermore, the study points out that 88% of SMBs view security software and hardware as essential for their long-term success.

Transforming operations with digital processes

SMBs are turning to digital solutions to transform their traditional processes. The move towards digitizing paperwork is not just about reducing paper use but rather about creating more efficient, accessible, and secure business processes. 

Digital documents are easier to store, search, and share, enhancing collaboration within and between teams and improving decision-making speed and accuracy.

Workflow technologies are now indispensable

Post-pandemic, SMBs have found a new dependence on workflow technologies. These tools streamline business processes, reduce errors, and free up valuable time for employees to focus on more strategic tasks. 

Workflow automation can range from simple task automation to complex business process automation, involving multiple steps, decisions, and outcomes.

Security as a foundation for business continuity

With an increasing reliance on digital tools, SMBs are recognizing the importance of robust security software and hardware. Protecting business data against cyber threats is no longer optional, it’s an essential foundation for business continuity and trust. 

Security solutions are evolving to offer more comprehensive protection, ensuring that SMBs can safeguard their operations against a growing range of digital threats.

Adapting to a new business environment

SMBs are adapting to a new business environment whereby automation plays a foundational role in their strategy. 

Automation offers a pathway to resilience, enabling SMBs to respond more swiftly to market changes, customer needs, and unexpected challenges. 

As SMBs continue to integrate automation into their core operations, they are setting a new standard for efficiency, security, and innovation in the small and medium business sectors.

Adopting automation at the strategic level

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are adopting automation with strategic intent, going beyond simple operational efficiency by integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) across business operations, including: 

  • Customer support: SMBs are using automation to provide faster, more accurate customer service, reducing response times and personalizing interactions, which enhances customer satisfaction and loyalty.
  • Marketing: Automation tools enable SMBs to execute targeted, data-driven marketing campaigns efficiently, allowing for personalized customer engagement and improved ROI on marketing spend.
  • eCommerce: By automating various eCommerce processes, SMBs can streamline order processing, inventory management, and customer communication, leading to increased sales and improved customer experiences.

Such integration equips SMBs to match the competitive capabilities of larger enterprises, promoting innovation and growth.

Automation as a survival tool

SMBs view automation technologies as essential for their success and resilience in the post-pandemic world. With a noticeable increase in technology budgets, these businesses are investing in automation to maintain their adaptability and continuity. 

The shift towards automation reflects a deep understanding of its importance for business survival in an ever-changing market.

Tangibly improving operational efficiency

SMBs use automation to make their operations more streamlined and to reduce the workload on IT departments. Desktop as a Service (DaaS) is one such technology that provides a holistic solution, optimizing IT resources and enhancing business efficiency. 

With predictions indicating that 40% of SMBs will adopt metrics to measure business value from core activities by 2027, the focus is on using centralized tools like CRM, ERP, and HR systems for better data management and operational fluidity.

Improving customer experience and marketing strategy via automation

Research shows that 70% of SMB marketers are prepared to invest more in tools equipped with AI or automation features. About 74% of SMBs express interest in adopting AI or automation technologies. 

Automation finds its application in various sectors within SMBs, with:

  • 52% using it for social media management: SMBs are leveraging automation to schedule posts, analyze engagement, and interact with followers efficiently, saving time and enhancing their online presence.
  • 44% for content creation: Automation aids in generating articles, graphics, and videos, enabling SMBs to produce consistent, high-quality content without extensive manual effort.
  • 41% for email campaigns: Automated email campaigns allow SMBs to send personalized messages to their audience at scale, improving engagement and customer retention.
  • 38% for ad targeting: Automation helps SMBs in precisely targeting their advertisements based on user behavior and preferences, increasing the effectiveness of their marketing spend.
  • 35% for analytics: SMBs use automation to gather and analyze data, providing insights into business performance and customer trends to inform decision-making.
  • 34% for website forms: Automation streamlines the collection and processing of data through website forms, enhancing user experience and operational efficiency.
  • 30% for CRM: Automated CRM systems help SMBs manage customer interactions and data throughout the customer lifecycle, improving relationships and driving sales growth.
  • 25% for SMS/text campaigns: Automation enables SMBs to send timely, targeted SMS campaigns, fostering direct and effective communication with their audience.

Final thoughts

The shift towards automation marks a transformation in business operations, positioning technology as a fundamental element for SMBs to maintain agility, competitiveness, and resilience amid the fast-paced changes in the business sector. 

AI and automation technologies equip SMBs with the tools to offer personalized customer experiences and to broaden their market presence efficiently. Despite challenges like data privacy concerns and the necessity for specialized skills, the advantages of automation outweigh the potential risks, presenting a substantial opportunity for SMBs aiming for growth and innovation.

Tim Boesen

February 29, 2024

5 Min