How SMEs can survive and thrive in 2023

It has been a stressful couple of years for the small business industry, with inflation driving margin pressures, supply chain remaining strained, and consumer demand shifting unpredictably.  2023 has the potential to be a year of growth for small businesses, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. Here are my top tips for SMEs to survive and thrive this year.  

Stay social

Social media plays a critical role in forming relationships and building loyalty with customers by maintaining a constant dialogue. Taylah Rose Foster, creator of self-funded retail business Madebytaylahrose based in Gippsland, has done just that. She has been able to grow her business over the last nine years by harnessing the power of Instagram and YouTube. She started her business at the age of 15 with less than $50 and garnered international demand for her scrunchies by engaging her customers through social media.  

Prioritise customer experience

Prioritising and enhancing customer experience online is essential. Your business’s online presence can be augmented by optimising website design for usability and translating to a mobile-first experience to drive easy access to products. Jordan Cullen, the creator of retail jewellery store Cullen Jewellery based in Melbourne, one of the leading ethical brands dealing in premium lab-grown diamonds launched a new website in 2022 that helped better showcase the products and reach more customers. In 2023, he aims to expand digitisation and automation of operations, which will help him take on a more data-driven approach.

Invest in branding

Our recent Vista SMB Report revealed more than a quarter of SMEs (28 per cent) see marketing as the biggest opportunity for 2023 – with 30 per cent investing most of their marketing spend into social media specifically, followed by 13 per cent investing in their website. This year, at a more tangible level, there will be more interest in short-run customised packaging, as well as bespoke and custom shapes and sizes when it comes to signage and printing. Businesses are predicted to be all about the aesthetic of their branding, with an emphasis on looking at ways to stand out to their customers. 

Innovation is key

 The digital transformation is here now, and adopting and implementing the latest automation and technology will aid in ensuring your business is future-proofed. The adoption of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things, will likely continue to drive efficiency and growth.  

In tradeshows, virtual and augmented reality displays are being used to demonstrate complex printing processes and applications. The use of AI and data analysis is also growing, providing personalised recommendations and connecting attendees with the right products and services.  


Sustainability will continue to rise in importance – both in terms of how products are produced, and the reusability and durability of products to add extended value. Investment in environmentally friendly alternatives, be it eco-friendly products or reusable marketing materials, will ensure that customers are getting access to low-impact products. Debbie Martin, the creator of Billie + Bobbie based in Brisbane, uses Premium Superfine Merino Wool to design newborn, infant and toddler swaddles and sleeping bags, which are all Australian-made and eco-conscious. She aims to increase her consumer base through marketing the eco-friendly credentials of her products. 

The challenge ahead

Our Vista SMB report also found that upskilling will be a key focus of 2023 for SMEs, with 40 per cent confirming it’s an area of investment – with female-owned businesses leading the charge at 44 per cent (vs 32 per cent male-owned). A quarter (26 per cent) of SME owners are looking to learn new technical/digital skills (i.e., AR/VR, automation, data, IT) in the next 12 months, while one in five SME owners (20 per cent) are focused on leadership as their main area to upskill.  

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