The study surveyed more than 4,200 small business owners across six countries (Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the United States, Canada, and Singapore). Carried out in partnership with behavioural science consultancy, Decision Design, the report found that out of those surveyed Singaporean SMEs are the most likely to embrace new technology. The nation boasts the highest proportion of tech adopters (36 percent), with nine in 10 small businesses stating that they feel confident about embracing new technology, and eight in 10 excited about implementing digital solutions.
Singaporean small business leaders were also most likely to:
- Switch to new technologies without hesitation if they are offered a better way of doing things (9 in 10);
- Feel certain that investing time to understand new tech solutions will positively impact their business (8 in 10);
- Use the extra time gained back weekly from leveraging technology to plan for the future of their business (8 in 10);
- Believe that new technology adoption is key to their business growing despite any risk it may have (7 in 10); and
- Upgrade technology as a result of grants and subsidies (more than 7 in 10).
Findings from the study revealed that globally, small businesses that readily adopt new technology achieve an average 120 percent higher revenues and 106 percent higher productivity than those that do not. Further, employees or owners of businesses who advocate for technology are 27 percent more likely to wake up excited about work and 16 percent more likely to feel proud about their business activities. Psychological drivers of Singaporean business owners were also uncovered, in contrast to their global peers surveyed in the report. Of the six countries surveyed, Singaporean respondents are the most likely to have started a business for family reasons (6 in 10), but are the least likely to have done so to become their own boss (8 in 10, compared to 9 in 10 in other regions). They are also the most likely to agree with the statement that they ‘live to work’ (more than 5 in 10).
Joseph Lyons, Managing Director, Xero Australia & Asia said, “The findings from the One step study demonstrate Singapore’s leadership position in technology adoption -- with SMEs identifying themselves as adopters at nearly twice the percentage we saw in those surveyed in Australia and New Zealand. Business owners in Singapore see technology as a necessary facilitator, and are willing to act on those convictions despite any potential discomfort. We believe the Singapore government’s vision and execution of ‘Smart Nation Singapore’ has been a key driver for success, educating and incentivising businesses to digitalise, setting the gold standard for other economies to follow.”
Based on its results, One step offers several recommendations to policymakers, advisors and technology vendors on how to help small businesses by presenting technology adoption in a more straightforward, less daunting way. These include:
- Encouraging smaller incremental changes to technology, rather than high-cost, high-risk investments;
- Celebrating small businesses who’ve benefited from technology adoption as examples that normalise digital change;
- Quantifying the 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.
The report also includes simple measures to help SMEs overcome their behavioural barriers including decision matrices, ‘pre-mortem’ evaluations, cost-benefit analyses, and setting aside time for peer learnings. Each activity helps to clarify the risks and rewards of technology adoption, allowing small business leaders to overcome confusion and uncertainty to make more rational decisions about the different options they may face.
While Singapore’s business owners stand out for a high proportion of tech adopters, it also has a significant number (27 percent) of those who classify themselves as delayers. When surveyed, some of the top behavioural challenges include uncertainty behind outcomes, being overwhelmed by the options available and believing making the switch would be too much of a hassle.
“Understanding why a relatively high percentage of Singaporean SMEs are slow to make the digital shift is crucial for the nation to stay ahead as a global city. Our data has shown that compared to other regions we surveyed, business owners in Singapore cited the inability to understand new technology as their main barrier for tech adoption. This demonstrates the importance of education and for policymakers, advisors, and technology vendors to work closely together to help SMEs reach their full potential,” added Lyons.
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).
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