The Fourth Industrial Revolution did not end with the Covid-19 pandemic. Rather, the coronavirus has merely accelerated it. Digital adoption and transformation rates skyrocketed as businesses, especially SMEs, scrambled to adapt to the changing economic landscape.

Above all else, it was Singapore’s SMEs that digitalised their businesses and leveraged data at higher rates than their peers in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, North America, and Canada.

This is according to a study of more than 1,000 SME owners and 1,000 SME customers across the five markets, commissioned by Xero, a cloud accounting platform that focuses on small businesses. The study itself was conducted by Forrester Consulting.

Up to 62 percent of Singapore SMEs surveyed utilised online business solutions during the pandemic, as they sought out new and innovative ways to better engage with customers during the pandemic. This yielded a 30 percent increase in overall cloud adoption from 2019, the largest increase among the five markets surveyed.

It was found that Singapore SMEs were also more likely to leverage customer data analytics to inform their strategy rather than to rely on instincts. Up to 37 percent of said businesses were using data while 20 percent said they relied on instinct. In contrast, 34 percent of their global peers said they relied more on instinct, compared to 27 percent that made use of customer data analytics.

Among the Singapore SMEs, businesses used data-driven insights to tackle the two top challenges during the pandemic; which were retaining existing customers (38 percent) and attracting and retaining new customers (36 percent).

When making important decisions, up to 43 percent of Singapore SMEs said that business decisions were made based on customer feedback, the same as the percentage that said they relied on advice from business associations and communities.

Kevin Fitzgerald, managing director for Asia at Xero, noted that Singapore SMEs are at a crucial juncture, with both a challenging business and economic environment facing them.

“Digitalisation of business operations coupled with generous government support has been a key enabler for many businesses through the peak of the pandemic and ‘circuit-breaker’ initiative. With government initiatives set to taper off over the coming months, there is growing urgency for SMEs to leverage data-based insights, adopt cloud-based digital tools and consult with trusted business advisers on strategy to build resilience and position themselves for growth,” said Fitzgerald.

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