By Daniel Hunter

Despite invoices make up nearly a third (31%) of all small and medium-sized enterprises' (SMEs) outgoing communications, the majority struggling to manage their invoicing processes in an efficient and automated way, reducing their ability to prevent late payments.

The survey of 280 UK SMEs, conducted by OpinionWay on behalf of Neopost UK, found that more than half (54%) of companies still produce and dispatch their invoices one by one - an extremely time-consuming and costly approach. In addition, more than three quarters (77%) stated that they need to manually add information to their invoices, while nearly a quarter (22%) admitted they did not know whether or definitely did not tracked their invoices, hampering their ability to identify and chase late payers.

While electronic invoicing is increasingly praised for the efficiency savings it brings, the research also revealed that many businesses are still unsure of the compliance regulations associated with e-invoicing. For example, half of respondents did not know whether their invoices needed electronic certification, while nearly two thirds (63%) were unaware of the compliance issues related to sending these documents electronically.

Erwan Kernevez, digital solutions director at Neopost, said: "These statistics clearly indicate that too many small businesses still rely on inefficient, unsustainable invoicing procedures. While it's true that invoice recipients have a duty to pay them on time, SMEs need to do everything they possibly can to get paid on time - and this means optimising their entire invoicing process. In such a fast-paced business environment, where time is of the essence, firms simply cannot afford to take time and resources away from their key business activities in order to support mundane tasks, such as manually amending or tracking invoices.

"Electronic invoicing, which is gaining popularity throughout Europe, can help UK SMEs become more efficient, reduce their costs and ensure regulatory compliance. In essence, it removes the time challenges associated with paper invoicing by automatically generating tailored invoices which are stamped with an easily traceable electronic pathway that allows the sender to check they've been received. With some recent reports suggesting that UK small businesses are struggling to grow - or even survive - because of late payments, it is now absolutely vital that they have these kinds of tools and processes in place."

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