Respondents in one regional five-country 2022 survey may be shedding some light on SME digitalization expectations and post-pandemic plans

Through a September-to-December 2022 survey of 750 small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in five countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam) on digitalization strategies, one major finding was that 49% of respondents had only digitalized a few functions across their business.

On average, the SMEs in the survey were currently using three tech solutions to support their business needs, with digital marketing being the top area of focus.

While the pandemic has expedited the speed of digitalization among respondents’ organizations, the rate of advancement had been uneven across the region, with 20% committing to digital transformation only in the last two years, and those in the Consumer Goods, Retail, and F&B sectors lagging in digitalization.

Other findings include:

    • Respondents’ top priority over the next two years was to enhance data analytics and innovation capabilities, through working with tech providers possessing strong technical skills (76%), industry knowledge (69%), and speedy response times (65%).
    • 69% of respondents were focused on transforming their traditional business model to an e-commerce enabled one in the next two years, while 69% were focused on digitalizing operations such as sales and marketing and customer relationship management.
    • 67% cited they were grappling access to knowledge and expertise, and 66% cited challenges with training programs to reskill or upskill employees; 65% cited challenges with advisory and consultation on technology adoption.
    • 84% or more of all SMEs surveyed saw value in workting with an external tech provider to manage certain functions to achieve their goals more quickly. The top two areas cited by respondents were digital marketing and employee training needs. On the operations front, in the area of payments and collections, 25% of SMEs in the survey were leveraging external solutions to provide such services.
    • 82% of all respondents expressed their openness to switching providers, with advanced technology (71%), more responsive customer care (68%) and better pricing (45%) being the top three factors driving this openness.
    • 74% cited dissatisfaction with existing tech providers in the area of speed of response; 64% cited the availability of human interaction as part of customer experience.

According to Laurent Junique, Chief Executive Officer, TDCX, which commissioned the survey: “SMEs have fully come around to the benefits of going digital, and (they) are making up for lost time by tapping the expertise of digital solution providers. Hence, the time is also ripe for (tech) providers to engage with SMEs to support their digital transformation.”