Almost half (47%) of UK businesses are planning to dial up their investment for growth between now and the end of the year, and over seven in ten (72%) feel optimistic about their success for the year ahead, according to American Express’ Trendex: B2B edition, which explores business spend intentions and growth ambitions.
The research reveals a more optimistic business outlook in 2023 compared to 2022 when 67% of businesses felt positive about their success in the year ahead.
However, inflation and ongoing economic pressures are causing businesses to sharpen their focus on financial management, with three quarters (76%) of UK businesses agreeing that managing cash flow and working capital has become more important over the last year.
BUSINESS SPEND PRIORITIES
Technology is a key focus for B2B spend this year, with nearly half (46%) of UK businesses expecting to increase their investment in this area; improving productivity, increasing speed and effectiveness of making and receiving payments, and staying ahead of the competition were revealed as key drivers for businesses planning to boost their technology investment between now and the end of the year.
Businesses are also prioritising partnerships to improve operational efficiency, solve problems and enable new activities, with 42% planning to spend more on business and professional services over the second half of 2023.
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Partnering with IT and technology consultancies was revealed as a key area of focus, while almost a third (31%) said they would increase spend on accountancy and finance partnerships to help them navigate financial challenges or restructuring activities.
STIMULATING GROWTH AND DIVERSIFICATION
Despite the challenging economic conditions, businesses are ambitious about creating opportunities, and 44% see increased marketing spend as a key enabler. Two in five of those planning to spend more say they will experiment with new marketing and advertising channels and almost a third (32%) are investing in marketing because they see the remainder of 2023 as an opportune time to differentiate against their competitors. A further 38% will use increased marketing spend to raise awareness of new products and services.
Business travel is also firmly back on the agenda to help firms explore and unlock opportunities in new markets. Nearly two in five (38%) businesses are expecting to increase spend related to travel, entertainment and expenses, with areas of focus including attendance at more industry events and more international travel.
Stacey Sterbenz, General Manager, UK Commercial at American Express said: “UK business leaders continue to demonstrate resilience and a willingness to invest, despite what remains a challenging economy. They recognise that staying competitive is critical to future success, and are prioritising spend in areas such as technology, marketing and travel, to help them stay ahead of the curve.
“It’s particularly encouraging to see the important role that collaboration and partnerships play in UK business’ growth plans. Expertise that helps drive innovation, enhances capabilities, or streamlines financial management can help businesses focus more on what they do best, putting them in pole position to seize opportunities, both in the UK and other markets.”