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THE year under lockdown has seen a large percentage of SMEs adapting their business by implementing new vehicle management software while almost a third have digitalised their fleets.

Research from Vimcar, conducted by Opinion Matters, has revealed a picture of how UK SMEs, that own company vans/vehicles, adapted to uncertainty and economic pressure during the Coronavirus lockdowns, how it impacted their fleet management, and how they see their future roadmap to recovery panning out.

Just over a third of those businesses surveyed adapted to meet customer demand, with a quarter (25%) of companies surveyed increasing their fleet size, and 30% said they will continue to rely more on local custom to impact growth.

Digital driving SME recovery

Of the UK businesses polled that have had to adapt, making the digital shift has been a driver for SMEs with 41% saying that they had to adopt more technology within the business. For those SMEs surveyed who adapted, one third turned to a digital platform to manage their company vehicles, as well as increasing their online presence (39%), number of cashless payments (38%) and reliance on social media (35%).

Of those surveyed, 44% said they have adapted their transport/fleet since March 2020. The top three business sectors that this applies to includes travel and transport (66%), IT and telecoms (57%), and retail, catering and leisure (56%). With 25% of those surveyed claiming that the running cost of managing their fleet has increased since March 2020.

Ronald Clancy, UK Country Manager, Vimcar, said: “2020 was a unique year that has changed the way businesses function forever. This data shows us just how resilient and adaptable UK SMEs have had to be to ensure the continuation of their businesses – and the reliance that these businesses have on the effective running of their fleets.

 “This research reveals how UK SMEs are clearly agile, ready to digitalise and fit for the future, and just how much SMEs were a part of the digital shift that occurred during lockdown.

“When we look to the future and the roadmap to recovery there are still challenges ahead, but it is positive to see that the digitalisation of fleets is an ongoing commitment for SMEs and their future success.”

 Looking ahead to the roadmap to recovery

Almost all (94%) of SMEs polled said the impact of technology on their business has been positive since March 2020. And there does not seem to be any going back for these businesses: investment into technology is going to be an increasingly important way for companies to overcome challenges in the next 12 months. A third of businesses owning vehicles plan to install a fleet tracker or to invest in a fleet management solution to overcome challenges they are expecting.

Under a third (29%) of businesses surveyed plan to increase their fleet size over the next 12 months, with 25% saying they would increase to meet customer demand or because their customer has changed since March 2020 (23%).

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