Bredin Report: How Does SMB Application Adoption Intent Vary by Industry?

To uncover the technology adoption plans of small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs), we recently fielded an SMB Pulse survey of 500 principals of U.S. companies with up to 500 employees. We assigned respondents into each of four groups based on their self-selected industry:

  • Professional Services (PS): Advertising/Consulting/Design/Marketing Services, Architect/Engineering, Banking/Insurance/Mortgage, Computer Services/Consulting, Computer Software/Internet, Financial Services/Accounting/Bookkeeping, Legal, Medical/Dental, Publishing/Printing/Media
  • Retail/Wholesale (RW): Entertainment/Recreation, Food/Beverage/Restaurants, Real Estate, Retail, Travel/Hotel/Hospitality, Wholesale
  • Manufacturing (M): Agriculture/Forestry/Fishing/Mining, Automotive, Computer Hardware/Electronic Equipment, Construction/Contracting/Electrical/ Landscape/Plumbing/etc., Energy/Utilities, Manufacturing, Pharmaceutical/Medical Devices/Biotechnology, Telecommunications, Transportation and Warehousing
  • Personal Services/Education (PE): Personal Services, Education/Training

First, we asked current users what tech they plan to upgrade. Professional services firms are most likely to upgrade their customer service software (such as Freshdesk, Salesforce Service Cloud and Zendesk), followed by accounting/financial management solutions (such as FreshBooks, QuickBooks and Sage), and marketing/e-commerce packages (such as HubSpot, Keap or Mailchimp). Retail/wholesale businesses are most likely to upgrade their CRM or salesforce automation software (such as Active Campaign, Salesforce and Thryv), followed by customer service and accounting/financial management.

Manufacturers are most likely to upgrade their design/illustration software (such as Adobe, Canva and Corel), followed by collaboration software (such as Confluence, Jabber, Salesforce Chatter, Slack and Trello) and telecoms (such as Cisco Meraki, Ooma and RingCentral). For their part, personal services and education firms are most likely to upgrade their payroll solution (such as ADP, Paychex and TriNet), followed by their security solution (such as Avast, Trend Micro and Webroot) and design/illustration software.

It’s interesting to note how the scale of upgrade intent differs by industry group. For example, the highest upgrade intent in professional services is only 31% (for customer service software), versus the fully 66% of personal services and education firms who plan to upgrade their payroll solution. Taking CRM solutions as another example, 62% of retail/wholesale businesses plan to upgrade, versus only 10% of professional services firms. The more you understand which industries are interested in your solutions, the more effective your sales and marketing campaigns will be.

SMB 2022 Upgrade Plans by Industry Group

SMB Tech upgrade plans by industry group in 2022

We also asked what new tech SMBs will adopt this year. Professional services firms will adopt new laptops and desktops most aggressively, followed document creation and management applications (such as Dropbox, DocuSign, Office and Workspace), and Internet access. Retail/wholesale businesses will also adopt new laptops and desktops most actively, followed by marketing and e-commerce applications and document creation and management solutions. Retail/wholesale businesses are also most likely to adopt new laptops and desktops, followed by accounting packages and document creation and management solutions. Finally, personal services and education firms are most likely to adopt a new accounting solution, followed by marketing/e-commerce applications and laptops and desktops. 2022 looks to be a good year for office tech providers like Acer, Dell and HP!

SMB 2022 Adoption Plans by Industry Group

SMB Tech adoption plans by industry group in 2022

As with upgrade intent, adoption intent differs widely (although not quite as dramatically) by industry group. For example, 34% of retail/wholesale businesses plan to adopt marketing applications this year, versus only 16% of professional services firms. Having insight into the nuance of your highest-potential audience – by industry, company size and other attributes – can significantly improve your marketing impact.

Need help understanding and/or engaging SMBs? Bredin can keep you up to date on evolving SMB needs and challenges through quick-turn, actionable market research. We can also help you develop high-value content and social posts to boost SMB awareness, brand perception, leads, conversion, and revenue.

About Bredin

Bredin was founded in 1991 by America's foremost small business expert, author and syndicated columnist Alice Bredin. From its beginning, Bredin was designed to be a breed apart: 50% research consultancy, 50% creative agency, 100% focused on SMB. Based in Somerville, Mass., Bredin helps Fortune 500 companies understand, reach and retain SMB customers through timely, targeted research and award-winning marketing programs.