2023 has so far been a huge year for technology. Rapid advancements in AI have changed the game for business owners strapped for time, especially for those without copywriting or design experience.
But these technological leaps forward have also created problems for many UK SMEs. With the assistance of artificial intelligence, online fraud is becoming more complex than ever, making it increasingly difficult for vulnerable businesses to protect their staff, their customers, and their bottom line.
We surveyed 1,000 UK business owners in July 2023 to find out what their biggest tech challenges were for the months ahead — and what they believe needs to be done to address them.
Three of the top 10 concerns for business owners in 2023 were about technology.
Advancements in AI were cited as a top concern for 1 in 5 (21%) of businesses, not cited in the top 10 concerns last year. A report published by Deloitte revealed that two-thirds (64%) of UK respondents expect that AI will reduce the number of jobs available in the future, and half (48%) are worried that AI will replace some part of their current role.
Coming in just below that was online fraud, with 20% of business owners listing it as their biggest concern. Cybersecurity came in as the seventh-biggest concern for business owners, with 18% of respondents admitting that this was a key worry for them.
When asked specifically about technological concerns, more than a third (35%) of our respondents said that they felt cybersecurity was becoming more important than ever. Furthermore, 3 in 10 (30%) were worried that online fraud was becoming harder to combat. The ONS has reported that online fraud has increased for the last three years successively, with 2022 up by 17% on 2021 (which was, in turn, 25% up compared to 2020). UK Finance revealed that this rise led to a total of £1.2 billion being stolen by fraudsters in 2022.
But many business owners are having to navigate the increasingly complex demands of cybersecurity alone: more than 1 in 6 (17%) said they had little or no tech support, and that they had to instead figure it out by themselves.
Businesses are clearly responding to these new technological threats by adapting how they work. While 1 in 5 business owners (19%) said that they started using AI in the last year, more than a quarter (27%) said they were going to use AI more in the next 12 months.
Cybersecurity was also a key investment area. More than 1 in 6 (17%) business owners increased their levels of cybersecurity in the last 12 months. What’s more, more than 1 in 5 (21%) said they planned to invest further in cybersecurity going into 2024.
Elsewhere, business leaders used technology to engage with a broader audience than they could before. More than 1 in 5 business leaders (21%) say they’ve grown their customer base using social media in the last 12 months. But not all business owners are as confident: 16% want to try using social media more but lack the knowledge, and 17% worry about keeping up with social media marketing.
Number of business owners planning to use AI more in the next 12 months
Number of business owners planning to invest more heavily into cybersecurity in the next 12 months
Number of businesses who've grown their customer base with social media in the last 12 months
Business owners are less likely to report not understanding digital payments systems than they did last year. Only 8% of respondents said they didn’t fully understand things like EPOS and online payments, down from a fifth (21%) in 2022.
Furthermore, business owners are getting far more confident using online banking. While a third (34%) said they lacked confidence using online banking in 2022, only 1 in 10 (11%) said the same in 2023. Moreover, just over 1 in 10 business leaders (11%) said they planned to manage their finances with tech solutions in future to reduce their reliance on accountants or finance teams.
Check out our Finance Challenges report to learn more.
John Clark, Product Manager at takepayments said: “Amidst this technological transformation, it's evident that businesses are facing a dual challenge and opportunity.”
“As the influence of AI expands, it's not just a matter of addressing its integration but also understanding the profound implications it holds for industries and employment. At the same time, the surge in concern about online fraud and cybersecurity underscores the urgency for businesses to fortify themselves in the digital space.”
“However, this landscape isn't solely characterised by challenges. The marked growth in using technology for customer outreach and financial management signifies a seismic shift in how businesses interact with their markets and manage their resources.”
“Amidst these complexities, it's heartening to see business leaders embrace change. Embracing technology is not merely a choice; it’s how companies stay competitive in the dynamic economic arena of 2023 and beyond.”
To see more key findings from the survey, check out our other reports:
To collect this data, takepayments surveyed 1,000 UK-based business owners, directors and leaders between 27th July and 1st August 2023. Users were screened prior to their responses and each answer was stratified to ensure maximum accuracy. The survey was built on and distributed by Pollfish, a leading independent consumer insights platform.