Why are so many Singaporean business still wary of the internet?

Chan Kee Siak, Founder & CEO of Exabytes

Singapore’s flourishing business landscape has witnessed remarkable strides in digitalisation. At present, one can say it stands as the pivotal driver of business growth. However, for many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Singapore, it’s a change that remains largely out of reach.

Even though the country ranks as the top spenders in technology, a surprising 20% of Singaporean SMEs find themselves on the outskirts of digitalisation, either just beginning their journey or yet to embark on it.

An on-ground study by Exabytes’ team has revealed a striking gap in knowledge among Singaporean business owners. Most that are aged between 35 – 44, remain oblivious to the potential of having a basic website in today’s e-commerce-driven economy. Many of these founders have little to no experience with digital marketing, and are unaware of its advantages over traditional marketing. The obstacles they encounter are specific to businesses that cannot employ resources at scale.

In a bid to compete with industry giants for survival, SMEs grapple with restricted budgets and constrained financial resources. This predicament often delays investments in new technologies to scale their digital infrastructure. The expenses can be costly, causing digitalisation efforts to often drop to the bottom of the priority list for many smaller businesses.

At the same time, access to advanced digital software and tools still remains a luxury for SMEs, especially those within niche industries. Single entrepreneurs, hyperlocal, or family owned mom-and-pop shops usually have limited awareness of the latest digital trends.

A significant segment of SME founders and employees also lack the literacy to navigate the vast and evolving digital landscape proficiently, pushing them further away from taking the leap and feeding into the fear of technology adoption.

Change can be intimidating, and it is only understandable that businesses which have just learnt to stand on their own two feet will have apprehensions concerning the adoption of new technologies. Potential disruptions, the steep learning curve, and cybersecurity concerns can dissuade businesses from embracing digital solutions.

But the repercussions of lagging behind in the digital race can echo through the entire business. SMEs that fail to adapt risk losing relevance, customers, and even their very existence.

The cost of being left out of the digitalisation wave

There is a chance of becoming obsolete on the occasion businesses fail to meet the evolving expectations of consumers in a tech-driven market. The inability to engage with digitally-savvy consumers may also lead to losing out a large portion of potential customers.

Growth is hampered too; in the current day and age, resisting digitalisation becomes a roadblock to expansion, innovation, and diversification into new markets. Manual processes keep growing in costs, diminishing productivity, and increasing errors. In fact, outdated cyber infrastructure exposes SMEs to online threats and potential financial losses. As employers of the new generation, the inability to offer a modern work environment with up-to-date technologies makes talent acquisition and retention a challenge.

The bottom line is that the costs associated with being outdated aren’t just theoretical assumptions, they are tangible ones that may cost the business a shot at success. It underscores the neglected but pressing problem of educating SME owners.

Helping SMEs understand the value of digitalisation

A multi-pronged approach is the key to supporting SMEs in comprehending the value of digitalisation. Initiatives like Exabyte’s “SMEsKickstart2023” campaign can play a pivotal role in making digital solutions more accessible and cost-effective, irrespective of their current online presence.

In-person seminars, workshops, and community engagement activities assume paramount importance for establishing direct connections with business owners and founders. These interactions provide insights into their unique needs and challenges, enabling the delivery of tailored advice and solutions.

Concurrently, facilitating greater access to digital solutions that streamline operations and collaboration is imperative. It improves the efficiency of back-end processes, reducing operational costs, and boosting overall productivity.

Web development and design services can augment their online presence, drive lead generation, and optimise e-commerce capabilities. Services that offer these resources at accessible price points to SMEs could prove transformative for them to compete in the digital landscape.

Another crucial but overlooked facet is comprehensive cybersecurity solutions that are affordable and within reach for smaller businesses. Equipping them with the correct tools and education to proactively safeguard their digital assets and sensitive information instils confidence. SMEs can use it as a stepping stone to embark on their digitalisation journey without fear of cyber threats.

By furnishing an abundance of resources, support, and the knowledge needed, SMEs have the room to thrive and flourish in today’s e-commerce-driven world.