Small to medium businesses in Australia employs over five million people or 63 per cent of the workforce. Due to the nature of the sector, it spans almost every industry and thus there is no such thing as one size fits all.
There are 2.1 million SMBs in Australia and roughly 300,000 new SMBs get started every year. Unsurprisingly, as many go out of business each year as are started according to research from Deloitte Access Economics.
This makes the odds of survival slim. While SMB owners are passionate about what they bring to market, and have to be, the ways in which they are doing so vary dramatically.
Brother commissioned its own survey of the SMB market to determine how the sector sees print technology and how it can help differentiate from competitors.
This differentiation can take many forms. It can be as simple as reducing costs to increase competitive edge, but can also be about using innovative print technologies to add value for customers, such as printing on different mediums.
While reliability, affordability and performance still dominate the decision making process when buying new printers; functionality, connectivity and support also ranked high amongst respondents.
Interestingly, a manufacturer’s ability to offer a wide selection of products for different applications was particularly attractive to decision makers in progressive companies, or those that prioritised growth and innovation.
Overall, there is a strong demand for security, as with all IT deployments, with 72 per cent of all respondents saying it was important or very important to their organisation. Additionally 60 per cent said IT security specifically impacts decisions around printing and document management.
While the majority of print purchasing decisions are made by IT administrators or managers, the study found senior management and owners were also taking more of an interest in these purchasing decisions. These latter group of decision makers have different priorities to their administrative counterparts as they are focussed on growing the business rather than simply keeping the lights on.
However, this is not to discount IT managers who are at the print solutions ‘frontline’; they are acutely aware of user, product and maintenance issues faced by their organisation. They have a growing voice in SMBs and are advocating easy-to-operate and easy-to-service machines that offer them greater overall IT efficiency. Refresh cycles and poor performance of devices are still the main cause of print purchases.
SMB satisfaction with channel partners is highly dependent on customer experience and service. This means that SMB decision makers take into account past experiences when considering a new purchase and this is as true for the channel partner as it is for the brand itself.
Having said that, it is the smaller businesses which are the most loyal buyers when it comes to supplies. While larger businesses in the SMB space will tend to experiment with a variety of genuine and non-genuine supplies, smaller businesses will stick with what they know and trust.
The study also found that 70 per cent of SMBs surveyed use software to monitor print consumption and cost. This is particularly true of the larger businesses in the SMB segment and two thirds of these software purchases are made at the same time as a printer.
No matter what size business, print volume and number of devices required is expected to increase in the next two years. This is led by the larger organisations in the segment but the smaller companies are also reporting similar increases, though not to the same extent.
The main reason for this is increased headcount but the trend is heading towards a centralised location for print which means mobile functionality will increasingly become a factor in purchasing decisions.
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