Are we seeing a new digital divide develop between big and small businesses, particularly in areas like retail and hospitality?
This thought occurred to me during a radio spot earlier today where we were talking about Apple Pay’s Australian launch. Many small businesses don’t have the capital or expertise to implement many of these new technologies.
A number of factors contribute to this including the legacy systems installed in small businesses, the proprietors having a poor understanding of technology and, most importantly, the lack of either capital for reinvestment or cashflow to fund the monthly charges that are standard for cloud computing services.
The expensive cloud
One unstated factor with cloud computing services is how the cost of services add up. For example a Premium 10 Xero customer with Receiptbank attached is looking at a $100 a month in charges. It’s not hard to see how adding cloud based Point of Sale, rostering and customer service software could see a small business incurring $400 a month in fees, throw in Salesforce and you could be looking at a very expensive exercise.
No doubt for those companies that can afford these services this is money well spent but for many margin or low turnover businesses, the charges could be a deal breaker.
Another aspect to the cloud services is the myriad of different platforms that need to be stitched together in most businesses, one cloud service founder calls it “digital spaghetti.”
Managing this bowl of complexity isn’t easy and raises a number of business risks as different services apply varying policies and practices to the data they collect and store. A breach or service failure at one could cause a ripple effect through all business operations.
For many small business owners, particularly older proprietors, managing this complexity is intimidating if not downright scary.
It may well be there’s a number of opportunities for a canny service provider to offer an out of the box small business solution, but for many older small operators with limited capital and restricted cashflow affording such a product might also be difficult.
The risk though for those businesses is they will find themselves falling further behind as markets, consumer demands and the workforce’s expectations evolve. A business digital divide could be fatal for those caught on the wrong side of it.