Amazon: small Scots firms ‘struggle with digital tech’

Scotland’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are cautious about the role of digital skills in helping their growth, according to new YouGov research commissioned by Amazon.

The research shows 40% of Scottish SMEs say that digital skills will “not be important” for their future growth prospects, while 53% do not believe they require strong digital skills from new recruits in the business.

In addition, only 28% say that online sales will be important to the future growth of their business, only 22% say that cloud computing will be a business driver, and only 6% believe that artificial intelligence or machine learning will be of benefit to their future business growth.

Amazon said the research was conducted by YouGov among a total sample size of 346 SME senior decision makers in Scotland. Fieldwork was undertaken between March 19 and April 3, 2018.  The survey was carried out online.

“We know that digital technology is having a transformational impact around the world, and it’s small businesses that can benefit the most from technological advances,” said Doug Gurr, UK Country Manager, Amazon.

“However, it’s also clear that many small businesses still find struggle to see the relevance of digital technologies to their future growth prospects.

“We all have a responsibility to show SMEs what’s possible by unlocking their digital potential.

“That’s why we launched the Amazon Academy programme in Scotland, to give SMEs the skills needed to succeed in the digital economy.”

Amazon said that although many Scottish SMEs are reluctant to embrace digital tech, the same survey shows that among those Scottish SMEs who do currently use e-commerce, 40% said they plan to increase the use of it to grow sales in the next 12 months and 30% say online selling will be important to their future growth.

“Scottish SMEs in the retail sector and start-ups in their first year of trading show the strongest digital adoption, with 74% of small retailers and 44% of start-ups saying they use e-commerce to sell products and services,” said Amazon.

Amazon said it works with Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Development International on the Amazon Academy programme, which provides free practical advice to SMEs on how to grow their business through digital tools and services.

The most recent Amazon Academy was held in Glasgow, attracting more than 500 small businesses and entrepreneurs, and more are planned for the future.

Claire Gillespie, Key Sector Manager for Digital Technologies at Skills Development Scotland, added: “From retail to tourism to financial services, technology is increasingly driving growth in our economy and transforming many of our economic sectors.

“This is not only set to continue, but to accelerate, and so it’s important that all types of businesses can benefit from the impact of technology.

“That’s why the support offered by Amazon in partnership with the public sector is a welcome contribution in helping SMEs identify the opportunities from technology and develop the skills they need.”