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Which digital technologies do private businesses value most and why?

By PwC Trendsetter Barometer

This feature was produced by Pricewaterhouse Coopers, and does not reflect the opinions or point of view of Vox Media or Vox Creative. Vox Media editorial staff was not involved in the creation or production of this content.

Digital technologies increasingly dominate our leisure time—every day, consumers spend hours on smartphones, browse social media apps, and track exercise activities with wearable devices.

But technologies like these aren't important just for consumers, or for publicly traded companies needing to focus on bottom-line issues for shareholders.

According to the latest findings in PwC's Trendsetter Barometer® quarterly survey of leading private companies, mobile, social media, data analytics and other technologies are now essential to privately held businesses in the United States and look to become even more so over the next several years. Here are four ways that digital acceleration is impacting private companies:

1. Mobile devices lead the way—but drones are coming

Nearly all private-company CEOs say that mobile devices are important to their business today, and more than three-quarters point to social media. Seven out of 10 company leaders cite data analytics, but with more of the larger firms ($300 million and greater in annual revenue) prioritizing this compared with smaller private companies—85% versus 66%.

What other technologies are Trendsetter businesses focused on? The Internet of Things, including sensors, connectivity, and software; wearables, robotics, and AI.

Drone technology looks to gain the most in importance over time. Right now, just 6% of private companies say drones are important to their business today, but nearly one-quarter think that will change over the next five years.

2. better customer experience and brand are what they're after.

What do private companies want from their investments in digital technology? Improved customer experiences and enhanced brand and reputation, say nearly three-quarters of respondents. Nearly 6 out of 10 expect to see increased profits result from those investments, while more than half are counting on technology investments to pay off in cost savings and revenue growth.

In some areas, company size has a major impact on expectations. More than half of larger Trendsetter companies expect to see improved decision making through better data analytics, as opposed to less than half of smaller companies. Four out of 10 smaller companies expect product innovation to result, in contrast with just one-third of larger companies.

3. tech investment and planning is on the rise.

Roughly one-third of privately held businesses say that in the next year they plan to increase their technology investment above what they're already spending. And they don't intend to do it haphazardly. More than two-thirds (68%) say they draw up plans for digital technology investment strategies and capabilities on an annual basis. Peering more closely, however, we see that a quarter of these plans are informal ones. Global businesses, in particular, are doubling down on digital: Nearly 8 out of 10 international firms say they have investment strategies and capabilities plans for digital technologies, as opposed to just slightly more than half of their domestic peers.

4. company leaders are digital champions.

Who's in charge of digital initiatives? The CEO, president, or company owner is positioned as the organization's champion for digital technology in nearly two-thirds of private companies. Regardless of the title, that person is engaged in setting high-level business strategy, say roughly another two-thirds of respondents. Nearly half engage with external sources to strategize around applying emerging technologies. Many private companies, however, appear to face challenges in leveraging digital technology and gauging the impact of their digital investments. Just slightly more than one-quarter of companies effectively use all the data they capture to drive business value, while less than one-third say that they consistently measure outcomes from digital technology investments.

PwC's Trendsetter Barometer reflects the views of 187 chief executive officers, including 96 from companies in the product sector, and 91 in the service industry. These organizations average $522.6 million in enterprise revenue/sales.

© 2016 PwC. All rights reserved. PwC refers to the US member firm or one of its subsidiaries or affiliates, and may sometimes refer to the PwC network. Each member firm is a separate legal entity. Please see for further details. This content is for general information purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional advisors.

This feature was produced by Pricewaterhouse Coopers, and does not reflect the opinions or point of view of Vox Media or Vox Creative. Vox Media editorial staff was not involved in the creation or production of this content.

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