In the wake of the pandemic, numerous UK businesses look set to experience significant growth in 2024, with restaurant owners leading the way, according to the fourth annual Future of Commerce report by tech company Square.
The report analysed data from thousands of British business owners and consumers, and additional insights from countries including the United States, Canada and Australia. One of its key findings was that restaurant entrepreneurs, making up a staggering 89 percent, are focused on business expansion this year.
Executive Director of Square UK, Samina Hussain-Letch, claimed that, "UK businesses, the future is looking cautiously optimistic, with retailers and restaurateurs feeling positive about growth." She added that Square aids businesses "whether that means opening a new location, improving reservation systems or introducing new payment solutions", stimulating customer loyalty and engagement.
Among retailers, internet presence is pivotal as owners attempt to reach customers online and in stores, meeting their varied shopping habits. While slightly more UK consumers prefer in-store shopping (51%) compared to online (49%), retailers must remember that 45% of UK purchases were made virtually in December 2023.
Rich Bayer, UK Country Manager of clearpay, highlighted that "when it comes to payments, they [customers] want choice and flexibility at the checkout to select the payment option that best suits them." Indeed, 61% of in-store consumers prefer contactless transactions.
On the restaurant front, owners are planning to broaden their business offering through new products or services, even though UK residents plan to cut down on takeaway orders this year. Therefore, to see a return on investment, businesses must find efficient ways to attract and retain patronage, potentially through innovative technologies which over three quarters of diners worldwide would welcome.
The study's findings also suggest that customer loyalty in the beauty sector is key, with 56% of global clients remaining faithful to the same provider. Effective reservation systems and seamless payment methods, such as contactless, will convince Britons to dine out. Reportedly, 69% of beauty customers prefer this type of payment option.
Looking to the future, Lois Williamson, Founder and Owner of Si Belle, expressed satisfaction with Square's service, saying "With Square, everything is aligned and seamlessly syncs. It's really good at allowing you to replicate things across different locations."
Lastly, the report pointed out that about 90% of frequent beauty salon visitors feel that appointment reminders are important. However, instead of traditional phone call reminders, customers prefer options like text messages or emails. As a result, personal care business owners may want to upgrade their technology stack, as 63% of consumers would appreciate automated activities in beauty establishments.