Only 35% of small to medium enterprises (SMEs) use data to a great extent to inform marketing decisions compared to half (50%) for sales, according to digital marketing agency Croud.

The report revealed some of the biggest challenges and opportunities British SME exporters expect to face in the run up to, and after, Brexit. The report, which includes contributions from companies such as UNiDAYS, Monty Bojangles and Kit for Kids, provides data, analysis and best practice advice for SMEs doing business overseas in today’s climate.

According to findings, 52% of SMEs are still concerned over data practices due to a lack of confidence around data management, although 78% believe data is important in helping them gain a competitive advantage.

However, 70% of those SMEs classed as data experts believe that innovations in artificial intelligence and automation present one of the biggest opportunities to help drive business growth in the next three to five years.

For SMEs, market data, customer data, social data and operational data can be sourced relatively easily and cost effectively. Furthermore, data has empowered SMEs to better work with partners and the supply chain.

SMEs should get access to as much data as possible and use it to help find a point of difference or competitive advantage. However, don’t be constrained by the data, it should be used to empower your decision-making not restrict it. Every experience is a learning opportunity, this includes learning from your own mistakes.

“SMEs are the backbone of British enterprise and 2018 is a year of unprecedented change, with new technology accelerating, GDPR coming into force, and Brexit on the horizon,” said Luke Smith, co-founder and CEO of Croud; “While most agreed that Brexit and regulatory changes present challenges, data presents an opportunity for SMEs to realise further growth – for example, 81% of SMEs are embracing data-driven marketing to execute campaigns at a global scale to drive serious ROI.”