The Smart Money: Shifts in the SMB Landscape

May 13, 2021
Despite the pandemic, security and smart technology buying trends are on the rise among small and medium businesses
This article originally appeared in the May 2021 issue of Security Business magazine. When sharing, don’t forget to mention Security Business magazine on LinkedIn and @SecBusinessMag on Twitter.

Editor’s Note: The Smart Money is a new monthly column in Security Business on trends and technologies for smart homes and related verticals from market research firm Parks Associates.

The public health crisis and the months of shelter-in-place orders have had a dramatic impact on U.S. businesses. In particular, small and medium businesses (SMBs) have been forced to reevaluate all parts of their business operations.

Capacity limitations and social distancing requirements have led some businesses to rework their office layouts, move service areas outdoors, and even open outdoor or lobby-area health check stations. Additionally, the move to a remote workforce means provisioning devices and deploying new software to keep employees working at home productively.

SMBs are resilient, and many have adapted quickly. The changing work environment, as well as market pressures SMBs have faced, means that securing networks and supporting the ever-growing portfolio of end-user devices are top priorities, and they are increasingly turning to ISPs for Wi-Fi management, network security, and other value-added services (VAS).

Although most SMBs report decreased earnings and reduced hiring, one-third say they have increased spending in some areas – most notably spending on voice and video conferencing services, and increased spending on internet access, IT devices, services, and support.

Parks Associates research shows that 50% of SMBs have a security system, and the majority are less than 5 years old. Additionally, 90% of those with a security system – or 45% of all SMBs – have a professional monitoring service for their system.

When it comes to the food and beverage space, Parks Associates found that 57% of bars, restaurants and other food-service SMBs say they are at risk of going out of business; yet, these at-risk businesses are the ones showing the highest interest in IT services and products and the highest intention to spend.

SMBs worried about employee theft of business goods are far more likely to use safety and security products at retail and office locations. For example, one-third of those concerned about employee theft use networked cameras. Devices that monitor entry-points (networked gates and video doorbells) are used to protect office locations in particular.

More Technology Investment Coming?

Reliable, fast, rock-solid connectivity is a critical necessity for continued and flexible operations to enable SMBs to move personnel remote, move services online, and to support any number of operational tasks.

Parks Associates research shows that 43% of SMBs are “very likely” to invest in additional IT capabilities over the next 6 months; and 21% of SMBs report an increase in need for products and services to protect or monitor the physical safety of the business location or employees since COVID-19 began, while 34% report an intention to spend on security systems or devices over the next 6 months.

Cloud storage, devices for remote employees, and improved software top the list of highly likely purchases. Additionally, one-third also report an intention to invest in premium conferencing services.

SMBs with more employees, more revenue, and working in locations out of the home are much more likely to use security systems. Over one-half of SMBs control their security system through a smartphone app in part or in full and most SMBs have experienced at least one false alarm over the last 12 months.

SMBs see the value of technology products and services now more than ever. They need their IT device vendors and service providers to be supportive and flexible, becoming trusted partners in pivoting their operations to new market realities. Taken together, these changes signal new demand for connected products and services in the SMB space.

Jennifer Kent is Vice President of Research for market research firm Parks Associates (