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B2B spending is up for U.S. businesses with inflation rates still hovering around a record high, but two-thirds (67%) of these businesses also expect to spend more to drive productivity and efficiency through digitization, including a focus on technology, according to the latest edition of the American Express Global Business Spend Indicator.

Sixty-one percent of U.S. businesses cited inflation as the factor having the biggest negative impact on their businesses. To help offset the impact of inflation, the GBSI indicates an overwhelming majority (79%) of respondents are prioritizing access to working capital and managing cash flow.

With nearly half (48%) citing a desire to improve productivity as the main driver, 60% of U.S. businesses expect to spend more on technology, the GBSI found.

Forty-five percent of respondents said they hope to improve the quality of their products or services, while 37% said their business wants to improve the speed and effectiveness of making and receiving payments.

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Automation is a key focus

Nearly half (45%) of businesses that recently began using automated payments reported they have already seen an improvement in cash flow management and receiving faster payments, helping to offset the impact of inflation.

Additionally, a majority of businesses are planning to further automate—specifically, 56% want to automate payments to suppliers and 63% when looking at payments received, according to the GBSI.

Further, the GBSI found that 48% of respondents reported that the digitization of payments has already helped reduce costs, while half associate automation with more efficient payment processes.

“Technology is a key area of investment for U.S. businesses focused on improving productivity – which is especially important in today’s macroeconomic environment, where businesses are looking for any opportunity to maximize output and remain competitive. This survey data also signals that U.S. businesses are feeling optimistic about the future of their business, and their investment in technology supports that,” said Trina Dutta, vice president of B2B payments automation, global commercial services at American Express.

Even though U.S. businesses are being challenged by inflation and supply chain disruptions, “the majority are keen to invest in technology, with a desire to improve business productivity being one of the main drivers of the rise in technology spending,” echoed Josie Dent, managing economist at Centre for Economics and Business Research, which conducted the survey.

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Significant changes are being made to the supply chain

U.S. businesses are also reevaluating their supply chain with 40% reporting they are still being impacted by supply chain issues in 2022. When asked what actions they’ve taken in the last six months because of supply chain challenges:

  • 70% found new suppliers, changed, and/or diversified suppliers
  • 35% negotiated with suppliers
  • 28% onshored or sourced more goods and services locally
  • 25% digitized operations

Dutta said Amex was “inspired to see that despite supply chain and inflation challenges, businesses across the country remain resilient, with 71% of U.S. businesses reporting they are optimistic about the success of their business over the next 12 months.”

In terms of what will be next in financial automation, Dutta said U.S. businesses are taking steps to secure their future amid macroeconomic challenges.

“For example, the GBSI found that U.S. businesses that digitized during the pandemic are seeing their investments in automation pay off: 45% of businesses that recently began using automated payments are already seeing an improvement in cash flow management, receiving faster payments, and helping offset the impact of inflation,” said Dutta.

When looking at payments received from business customers, the share of suppliers wishing to expand their current degree of financial automation increases to 63%, Dutta said. “As businesses continue to see the benefits of financial automation, we expect to see increased use, and in turn, more innovation in the space.”

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