A new study conducted by SAP and Oxford Economics found that Asean enterprises identify growth and customer experiences as key factors for survival post-pandemic.

However, they face significant challenges in the areas of talent attraction and retention, cloud adoption, and gaining insights from data. 

The study, which aims to uncover the state of businesses and their strategic priorities, surveyed 600 respondents across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand, including 400 small and midsize enterprises (SMEs) with less than $500 million in revenue.

Customer experience emerged as a key priority, with 35% of enterprises surveyed saying service excellence is now their primary source of value and differentiation.

Personalisation for customers topped the key factors for ensuring a positive customer experience, followed by providing high-quality products or services and ensuring data protection and privacy.

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SMEs find it more challenging to keep pace with uncertainties and external challenges compared to their larger counterparts. Of the businesses surveyed, 40% of SMEs find it difficult to adapt to a rapidly changing marketplace (compared to 29% for large enterprises).

38% of SMEs also find it challenging to keep up with customers’ wants and needs, while 34% struggle with retaining customers, compared to 43% and 30% for large enterprises.

SEE:SAP Business ByDesign: Small on the SME’s budget, but big in potential

The study also found that the enterprises recognise the importance of automation and digital technologies for enabling growth, with more than half, or 56%, believing it will support their goals by increasing efficiency and reducing error. This is followed by reducing overhead costs (45%) and allowing employees to focus on higher-level business tasks (39%).

From a talent perspective, businesses also place importance on their workforce for driving success. Over the next three years, 71% of enterprises surveyed expect moderate growth in employee productivity, followed by customer loyalty and satisfaction and market share (71%).

To improve employee experience, 29% of businesses are streamlining organisational processes, 38% are investing in employee training and development, while 25% are modifying for flexible work policies.

Verena Siow, president and managing director of SAP South East Asia, says that businesses are at a crucial transformative point to achieve long-term competitive growth.

“Regardless of industry, businesses must embrace true business transformation into intelligent enterprises while keeping in mind that customers are the lifeline to survival and sustainable growth,” she says.

“In an ever-increasing digital economy, the enterprises that thrive are those that adapt the quickest. There is a strong need to shift mindsets while constantly seeking new ways of working and redesigning processes," Siow adds.