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Advances in tech and cybercrime a big worry for growing businesses

According to new research conducted by Barclaycard, growing firms are more worried about cybercrime than the impact of the EU referendum.

The focus for many companies is shifting towards hiring specialists to deal with the digital world, and it is estimated that investment in cybersecurity expertise will increase by a third next year.

Of those surveyed, almost half cite cybercrime as a major concern, compared to 34% who are worried about the consequences of the EU referendum. Companies are increasingly having to weigh up and adjust to new demands placed on their budgets. 

Small businesses (SMEs) invest around £2.9 billion a year on cybersecurity experts. Many are looking for advisers who can help them to future proof their companies and stay ahead of the latest threats. This is including next generation payment professionals and specialists capable of handling tech overload.

According to Barclaycard, the same amount is also being channelled into support for implementing new payment innovations such as contactless technology.

Over the last five years, small businesses have increased their spending on cybersecurity professionals by 43%, and by nearly 31% on payment innovation. Next year the spend is expected to rise again by 32% on expertise and 23% on payment innovation.

Sharon Manikon, Managing Director of Customer Solutions at Barclaycard, said: “UK SMEs face immense pressure to keep up with competitors of all sizes. As a result, there are more demands on their budget than ever, and these are forcing them to spend smarter.

“One way to make budgets work harder is to engage suppliers who don't just provide competitively priced products and services – but also offer access to the specialists who provide consultancy to help businesses continue to thrive. This will help SMEs derive the most value from their experts and drive their business forward.”

Businesses are facing challenges posed by the uncertain economic landscape, plus customer preferences are constantly changing. Barclaycard’s findings suggest that companies are less certain about how they handle multiple demands and priorities. The survey also found a decline in the demand for ‘traditional’ experts as areas such as procurement, legal and compliance become less relevant in the ever-shifting world of business.

The research suggests smaller companies can make their budget work harder by hiring experts who provide support across multiple areas, especially when it comes to technology.

Of the small businesses that increased spending on fraud prevention, 23% subsequently noticed a rise in sales and customer satisfaction, which is likely due to improved customer confidence.

Barclaycard expressed that businesses should stay on top of upcoming trends in technology and that they must engage with the experts in relevant fields. This includes ‘next generation’ payment specialists who would advise on emerging technology such as ‘conversational commerce’, which uses digital assistants to make a purchase, and ‘invisible payments’, where card details are saved in advance of a transaction, such as for one-click ordering.

However, 33% of businesses said they had never heard of these technologies, despite consumers’ enthusiasm for the tech options.

Futurologist David Price predicts that British businesses will need access to a growing range of experts. This includes:

· Social purpose consultants, to respond to growing demands from millennial customers

· Tech overload therapists to support employees who have become overwhelmed by being part of an ‘always on’ society

· Online experience designers, responsible for improving user experience by incorporating virtual and augmented reality technology into online interactions

Price explains “As consumers become more tech-savvy, SMEs are increasingly dependent on their digital presence for survival, and face new pressures from all angles,

“A deep understanding of emerging technologies – like artificial intelligence, and augmented and virtual reality – will all become ‘must haves’, not luxuries, over the next five to ten years.

“The challenges of this changing landscape also extend well beyond the realms of what you might expect. Businesses will need to think outside the box to cater for the demands of more discerning consumers, for whom social purpose, for example, is now a key priority.”

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