Broadband can up your gameBusinesses in urban areas often take access to super-fast broadband for granted, but it can be a real barrier to entry for a lot of rural businesses. Gaining access can be a game-changer – and it’s not just about being “more efficient”, which can sound like a vague benefit. It offers real, tangible results. Gurr explains: “In Cornwall, where superfast broadband coverage is provided to almost 90 pc of households and businesses, research published by SERIO at Plymouth University found that upgrading to superfast internet generated a 30pc average increase in productivity for businesses there. “Offering services like next-day delivery and allowing SMEs to reach millions of customers without leaving their homes or offices opens up an entirely new world, but all of that can only happen if you have the right infrastructure in place to support those services.” Increasingly however, broadband isn’t just something a business needs access to up its game – it’s a necessity. Recent bank branch closures in rural areas have hammered this point home. “It is very worrying to see yet more local bank branches being shut down, leaving small business customers without the services they rely on,” said Federation of Small Businesses chairman, Mike Cherry.
“Cash still remains an important element of many small firms and it needs to be banked at the end of the day. For some small businesses online banking is not always a viable substitute, not least because of poor broadband coverage in many rural areas.”
Bridging the skills gapThere is a skills gap in the UK, and there just simply isn’t enough technology talent to go around. This can make recruiting for small businesses a challenge, doubly so for rural small businesses. These days, you don’t just need an understanding of the internet and technology if you’re a tech company – you need it for day-to-day operations, for relatively simple things like running a website, using social media to engage with customers, and selling online. There are many necessary digital skills, and given the shortage of supply, many businesses have turned to in-house training and upskilling existing employees. However, Gurr believes making digital services as user-friendly and easily accessible as possible is key to getting more small businesses taking up the digital opportunity to grow their business. “In the same way our mission is to constantly innovate on behalf of our customers to provide the best selection, value and convenience, we also take this approach with services we invent to empower small businesses. Our Fulfilment by Amazon service for example, takes on the task of logistics, customer service, and product returns so businesses selling on Amazon Marketplace can focus on coming up with great products and ideas.” The Amazon Academy gives businesses the chance to learn how to do just that – it’s all about helping small businesses build digital skills to optimise sales. The event will help business owners learn all about Amazon Marketplace to get them selling online, Amazon Web Services to give them access to cloud computing services, and new innovative services such as Alexa, Amazon’s new cloud-based voice service.
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