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Digital skills have become fundamental to all sorts of businesses, with firms of all sizes needing to be able to manage information, transact and communicate online.

Furthermore, companies are now expected to be able to use digital tools to solve problems and create marketing materials.

However, the latest Lloyds Bank Digital Index worryingly suggests some or all of these capabilities are beyond many of the UK's small businesses.

Figures showed that 41 per cent don't have the full range of basic digital skills, despite the clear advantages that being digitally savvy can have.

The Lloyds Bank report argues that being able to use digital platforms effectively can pay "huge dividends" for a small business.

Here are just some of the benefits it can have...


1.6m small businesses in the digital slow lane

More than four in ten businesses - some 1.6 million enterprises - are currently operating without some or all of what Lloyds believes are basic digital skills.

In many cases, this appears to be down to an outdated mindset. For instance, 43 per cent of those with the lowest levels of digital skills said they consider an online presence to be irrelevant.

More established small businesses seem to be the most intransigent when it comes to using technology.

Indeed, 57 per cent of businesses that are over ten years old said they don't feel digital or technology advances are needed.

However, this means they're at risk of losing ground to rival firms, who are using digital both to refine their operating processes and build customer relationships.


Data security concerns holding small businesses back

One factor preventing businesses from fully embracing the latest digital technology appears to be concerns over data security.

With many high-profile data breaches and cyber hacking incidents fresh in the memory, it is perhaps understandable why some smaller firms are concerned.

However, this should perhaps be more of a motivation to upskill and make their data infrastructure even more secure, rather than ignore the latest technology.

Commenting on the findings, Nick Williams of Lloyds Banking Group said digital skills have enabled small businesses to increase sales, boost productivity and generate considerable time savings.

However, he stated that there is more than can still be done to support smaller firms.

"They are vital to the UK economy and understanding how digital skills can unlock their potential is really important," he commented.

Customers now demand and expect a certain level of digital savviness from businesses, as they are used to purchasing online, using alternative payment methods and interacting with brands via social media.

But they're also highly demanding when it comes to data security, and they'll be reluctant to hand over any personal details to a company if it cannot demonstrate it is abiding with the very latest best practice recommendations.

Businesses must stay flexible and agile as technology advances if they wish to attract and retain customers and keep up with their direct competitors.