Square On How SMEs Can Sustain Recovery

Kaushalya Somasundaram, Executive Director & UK Head of Payments Partnerships & Industry Relations at Square, speaks to Finance Monthly about how SMEs can sustain recovery.

The number of people shopping in stores is predicted to drop as the cost of living continues to rise. Challenges may lie ahead for businesses both big and small across the UK, with recent research finding that 71% of SMEs view inflation as their biggest cause for concern this year. 

New data from Square has also revealed a trend of “lunchflation” in the UK. Lunch item prices are rapidly increasing, with rates jumping by 3% year on year with soups leading the way, with an average mark-up of 36% as of March 2022. This is a clear indicator of recent setbacks for businesses from the past two years. 

The upcoming months are likely to look as tumultuous as the start of the year, however, there are actions business owners and leaders can take to safeguard themselves against unprecedented challenges and enable continued recovery as businesses navigate the post-pandemic world. Implementing tech to streamline operations is a strong starting point and also acts as a foundation to grow and pivot a business.

Streamlining operations

Making operations more efficient should be at the top of every business owner’s to-do list, enabling employees to spend time on what really matters – building strong customer relationships, perfecting their product or service, building out their offering and creating an engaging brand story to ultimately drive sales. 

By integrating technology into operations, businesses can easily boost efficiency and standardise processes across locations. We’ve purposely designed solutions such as the Square Dashboard so that businesses can track sales by employee, monitor inventory, manage timecards, accept payments and more. This way a business’s entire team only needs to use and be trained on one system (and control access to certain features via employee passcodes), so everyone across multiple locations is using the same POS, which is all linked to the Dashboard.

Hospitality businesses can create seamless communication between multiple ordering channels from front to back of house. The benefits of investing in automation aren’t just felt by the restaurants, they trickle down to consumers, too. For 400 Degrees Pizzeria, a pop-up pizzeria in Cambourne, that meant giving customers the choice of how they were served, whether that be online, or in-person. 

Flexibility for maximum customer reach

The pandemic accelerated e-commerce and it’s clear this shift online is here to stay. In the UK, the share of classic lunch items that were ordered in-person hasn’t returned to pre-pandemic levels, as consumers have had to pivot to placing orders online for delivery and pick-up. Despite this, a number of orders are still being placed in-person – highlighting the need for businesses to offer customers flexibility in how they order across platforms. 

Going back to our previous seller example, 400 Degrees Pizzeria, is using technology to maximise orders from each end. The owner Sam Corbin told us; “I’ve been using the Square KDS, it brings together all the orders in one place no matter if they were face-to-face or online everything is just there at a glance. There are two KDS screens in the van with one at the prep side & an ‘expeditor station’ at the hatch. We mark off on our screens when it’s made and that in turn shows at the hatch – then I tap it away when it’s been collected. As we’re all able to see what’s going on clearly we can accurately predict timings for walk-ups and get orders out faster than ever.”

Whatever the next year throws at businesses, one thing is clear; those who embrace change and adopt technology will have what they need to thrive. The human-interaction element of dining and shopping will always be a huge part of the holistic brand experience, but businesses need to use the right tools to meet customers where they are, whether that’s online, in-person, or a mix of the two. 

Recovery is still on the horizon

In recent years, it’s been encouraging to witness small businesses adapt and innovate not just to survive but continue growing. Many have embraced an omnichannel approach by enabling their customers to shop through their own sites, or on social media. Recent research shows that 73% of consumers are now actively shopping through social channels, showing the demand for this approach.

Staying agile and aware of the changing customer habits will enable businesses to bend and pivot. Employing the right technology early will help them to adapt fast and keep multiple revenue streams open. 

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