By Aimee Chanthadavong

Small Australian retailers are looking to spend more this year compared to last as they try to refocus their business priorities for the new financial year.

The Telstra Smarter Business monitor revealed 46 per cent of retail small to medium businesses plan to spend more to get things in order again. One area they see as a priority is updating technology with up to 89 per cent claiming they don’t currently use technology to increase staff productivity and reduce business costs.

Telstra executive director of small business sales and service, John Boniciolli, told RetailBiz the research findings emphasised the growing importance of technology in driving cost efficiencies.

“One of the challenges is business owners want to stay control of their business and new technology can be a little overwhelming… [but] I think small business owners are amazing people. Once they have the insight in the knowhow of how to use those technologies they know exactly how to apply it to their business,” he said.

In planning for the year ahead, for the first time Australian small businesses are ranking smartphones as a more important technology than laptops. In fact, smartphones were ranked as the most important business technology by 69 per cent of small businesses, only a fraction behind desktop computers at 71 per cent.

“There are many retail world examples of how smartphones and tablets can be used. But it’s about where you can be where your customer is. So can be about displaying product information on a tablet or using electronic forms to remove paper-based systems to improve the quality of the customer experience,” Boniciolli said.

The report found the reason why updating technology was a key importance for SMBs this year was because 61 per cent of those surveyed said increasing cost of doing business was a key frustration, followed by utilities and rent, taxes, cost of end product and payroll.

“To any SMBs and any retailer, it’s important they have the conversation with whoever is handling their technology applications. The worst thing is applying those tools and not seeing the results. Fundamentally, new technology can improve business operations, productivity levels and ultimately enhance customer experience,” Boniciolli said.