UK SMBs have lowest levels of AI adoption, reveals study from IONOS

Manchester, October 30, 2023. IONOS, the leading European digitalisation partner for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), has published new research in partnership with YouGov, which found that while many SMBs understand the benefits of AI, UK business leaders have the lowest levels of AI knowledge and adoption.

The study of 4,807 SMB owners, including 1,002 in the UK, sought to unpick the current state of play for SMBs and AI across the UK, US, France, Germany and Spain. It found that UK business leaders have the lowest number of people already using AI frequently for work (9% compared to 15% average) and the largest percentages of people considering AI’s use to be a risk in areas including misinformation, quality control and job losses.
Despite this, UK SMBs understand the benefits of using the technology, with the top three advantages reported as simplifying and speeding up processes (50%), relieving staff of standard tasks (42%) and generating creative ideas (32%).

Key findings from the IONOS and YouGov study on SMB AI adoption include:

  • Knowledge levels around AI are low – just 7% of UK SMBs consider their level of AI knowledge to be very good, compared to 32% in the US. Almost half (48%) of UK SMBs state their knowledge of the technology to be fairly poor or very poor and over half (56%) have never used AI tools before in work – the highest percentages from the countries surveyed.
  • UK SMBs have the most concerns surrounding the use of AI – when asked how much of a risk the use of AI is in certain circumstances, UK respondents had the most concerns. The danger of misinformation was reported as a risk by 88% of UK SMBs (787% average), lack of quality control around content was deemed a risk by 85% (75% average), while 83% see the use of AI as a risk to job losses (72% average).

  • AI is most useful for text creation – according to UK SMBs, the most useful case for AI is the ability to create text for emails, newsletters and websites, with 51% agreeing this application is useful. 47% cited AI as useful in technical settings and search engine optimisation, and 44% stated AI is useful for image research and creation. However, these percentages are still quite low when looking at other countries. For example, 71% of respondents in Spain and 63% in Germany agreed that AI is useful in text creation.

  • Security and data protection are the biggest barriers to using AI – almost two thirds (63%) of UK SMBs reported that security and data protection are major barriers to using AI in their companies more widely. This was closely followed by AI quality and susceptibility to error (62%) and lack of transparency regarding sources or the origin of content (58%).

Achim Weiß, CEO at IONOS, commented: “Earlier this year, we found that small and medium sized businesses struggle with the cost and time required for digitalisation. Thankfully AI has the ability to give a real boost to SMBs in this space. I am pleased that awareness of AI and its enormous potential is increasing. “However, there are also reservations that show we still need to build more trust, because one thing is clear: Artificial intelligence is becoming increasingly important. As a cloud provider, we support our customers with new AI tools and functionalities to use this groundbreaking technology for their business processes. As a strong digitalization partner, IONOS guarantees the security, transparency and data sovereignty of the new services.”