December 19, 2022

Business data can be used to get an accurate sense of where your target customers are when planning a territory or new location. But some top level research shows that there doesn’t seem to be a definitive known quantity of businesses in the UK, so why do different business data sources wildly disagree on how many there are? Let us share some insights with you.

What are the main numbers?

Here are the number of businesses in the UK quoted by different sources:

  • 18 million businesses (2.8 million refined). Companies House
  • 8 million businesses. B2B data supplier
  • 6 million businesses. Market Location (our data supplier)

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  • 5 million businesses. Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)
  • 7 million businesses. Inter-Departmental Business Register (IDBR)

As you can see, the numbers vary drastically between each source. The sources above the line provide usable data and will be the focus of this article. Those below the line are mainly used for government resources and statistical reporting.

The image below shows how the Companies House data compares to B2B data suppliers’ figures. It also shows some initial processing that we carried out to try and remove low quality records.

 B2B data suppliers

Why are they different?

From the research we’ve done, we have started to gain an understanding of some of the numbers being talked about and why they are so different. The main reason for this is the purpose or use cases for the data. For example, some are for government and statistical reporting purposes, whereas others are for providing business data or targeting marketing lists.

From a government and reporting perspective, it’s valuable for you to know how many businesses there are almost regardless of status and activity. These datasets might not be used for anything other than for reporting purposes.

In regards to Companies House data, they simply register company information and make it available to the public.

Alternatively, if you are a B2B data supplier, selling a range of basic and premium business data, then you want your database to be as accurate, up-to-date, and as high quality as possible. Otherwise, you’re providing inappropriate records/data to clients looking to carry out important and costly activities, like building territories or running targeted marketing campaigns. In terms of B2B suppliers, the difference in numbers is largely down to the frequency of updates to the database and the different levels of verification carried out by each company.

What's available and what's right for me?

Currently, we use a supplier called Market Location. They are a leading B2B data solutions provider and have a database of around 1.6 million records. It’s one of the smallest databases but it is arguably one of the most accurate and up to date as they verify each business by telephone. There has been a recent drop in the number of businesses in their database, you can find out more about this in one of our other articles.

With this in mind, we are looking at continuing our work on the data provided by Companies House so we can offer it as an alternative option. We’re trying to drill down even further to remove as many of the low quality records as possible. We’ll keep you updated via our Socials when we have some more news on this.

When both options become available it will ultimately depend on which you think is right for your business. Would you prefer to have a lower overall count of businesses, that might not show all of them, but the ones it does have are accurate, up to date and verified. Or you can have a higher number of businesses to target, but it’s likely that the number is inflated and may contain records that are not right for you to sell to.