Media releasePublished on 16 November 2021

Digital hesitance holding New Zealand small businesses back

Behavioural research discovers barriers to Kiwi small business success

Wellington – 16 November 2021 – A new survey conducted by Xero, the global small business platform, has found small businesses experience higher revenue and productivity when they readily adopt new technology.

But technological hesitance is holding small business owners back from achieving success.

In the behavioural science research study One step, more than 4,200 small business owners across six countries (Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the United States, Canada, and Singapore) were surveyed about their technology adoption.

The results found those that readily adopt new technology enjoyed, on average, 120 percent higher revenue and 106 percent higher productivity.

Digitalisation also improves satisfaction levels - of those running or working for digitalised companies, 27 percent are more likely to wake up excited about their work.

Xero’s Managing Director for New Zealand & Pacific Islands, Craig Hudson, says that despite these findings, only one in five Kiwi small businesses consider themselves as technology adopters, compared to nearly one in four who admit they continually delay investing in new technology.

“This disparity in mindset – something we’re calling an adoption gap – comes from several sources identified through this survey.”

“Namely, mindsets and perceptions about technology and change. Small business leaders tend to believe their current solutions are good enough, coupled with anxiety about how complex and costly the change process might be,” says Hudson.

The study also found that while eight in ten New Zealand small businesses felt confident about embracing new technologies, only 19 percent considered themselves to be active adopters of the latest technology. New Zealand small businesses were:

  • Highly likely to feel confident about comparing different tech options (8 in 10) or their ability to manage the rollout of new technologies amongst other tasks (8 in 10);
  • Relatively unlikely to worry about the stress of upgrading to newer tech solutions (4 in 10); but also
  • Likely to get annoyed if told what’s best for their businesses (5 in 10).

“Small businesses may know the benefits, but they’re not adopting technology because the idea of doing so feels deeply uncomfortable and even threatening,” says Hudson.

“There are great resources available for all small businesses, such as, but the key is how we talk about engaging with this advice.

“For example, we should be encouraging smaller, incremental changes rather than high-cost, sweeping upgrades. Just digitising one aspect of your business can have a huge impact, and then overtime SMEs can build more.

“It’s about biting off what you can chew, rather than telling SMEs that they need to fix everything to feel the benefit.

“With a few small, simple adjustments to our practices, we can help our small businesses achieve the full potential that digital technology offers them.”

Based on its results, One step offers several recommendations for how policymakers, advisors, and technology vendors can help small businesses by presenting technology adoption in a more straightforward, less daunting way. These include:

  • Celebrating small businesses who’ve benefited from technology adoption as examples that normalise digital change;
  • Quantifying the true gap between current operations and those enhanced by technology; while also
  • Measuring technology’s benefits in a way that’s more relatable to small businesses’ experiences; and
  • Narrowing and simplifying technology choices to minimise decision paralysis.


Media Contact

Natalie Weber-Benning | | 021 026 19604

About Xero

Xero is a cloud-based accounting software platform for small businesses with over 3 million subscribers globally. Through Xero, small business owners and their advisors have access to real-time financial data any time, anywhere and on any device. Xero offers an ecosystem of over 1,000 third-party apps and 300 plus connections to banks and other financial partners. In 2020 and 2021, Xero was included in the Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index and in 2020, Xero was recognised by IDC MarketScape as a leader in its worldwide SaaS and cloud-enabled small business finance and accounting applications vendor assessment.


Xero partnered with behavioural science firm Decision Design to complete an anonymous and unbranded, nationally representative market study among n=4,211 small businesses across Australia (n=1,212), New Zealand (n=170), the United Kingdom (n=1,162), the United States (n=1,165), Canada (n=341) and Singapore (n=161). This behavioural science-led study measured perceptions, beliefs, behaviours and behavioural barriers related to technology and technology adoption. Data collection by Decision Design was conducted between 12 – 26 July 2021 and study respondents are all small business decision makers for businesses with less than 50 employees (less than 100 employees in the United States).

For all media enquiries, please contact the Xero media team.

Start using Xero for free

Access Xero features for 30 days, then decide which plan best suits your business.

  • Included
    Safe and secure
  • Included
    Cancel any time
  • Included
    24/7 online support