Small businesses go digital, web seen as integral to COVID-19 survival


Small businesses have adopted technology at a rapid pace, according to a new survey, with cash-strapped Main Street adjusting to the demands of the pandemic era as a means of survival.

According to report released last week, 71% of growing small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) have survived the pandemic by going digital, and 66% say their businesses could not have survived the pandemic using technology from ten years ago.

“They’ve put the needs and wants of their customers first, and if they’ve realized that customers want the option, they want the flexibility to interact with businesses and services, online or in person,” Enrique Ortegon, senior vice president of Salesforce SMB, told Yahoo Finance. Live in a recent interview.

Local service mom and pop retail stores have struggled mightily to stay afloat during the pandemic. Many have failed to do so or will have to close in 2021 as they weather the storm of increasing COVID cases.

Indeed, according to the National Federation of Independent Enterprises (NFIB), approximately said they will have to close their doors if economic conditions do not improve over the next six months.

Yet not all small business trends have been gloomy. The pandemic has fueled a global surge in e-commerce sales and online businesses, as global lockdowns and the spread of the virus have forced consumers to turn to the internet to purchase everyday goods.

Through technology and creative strategies, small and medium businesses have been able to evolve and rely on different types of technology tools to help improve customer engagement.

As a result, 83% of SMEs have at least part of their operations online; of those, nearly all (95%) have moved some of their operations online in the past year, Salesforce found.

Online shopping “like never before”

Christina Gibbs, left, from Saginaw, Mich., Holds up the brand of coffee she used to make espresso, as Paul Songer, one of the judges, sniffs the beans at the 5th Annual Barista Cup in Torani, Saturday May 1, 1999, in Philadelphia. Gibbs was named the competition’s second finalist on Monday, May 3, 1999. (Photo by William Thomas Cain)

Flavored Coffee Syrup Machine is an example of an old-fashioned business reliant on personal relationships that had to adapt to the realities of the COVID-19 era.

“We will never be a full-fledged technology company. We are a product that people bring home, ”said Stacy Cooper Dent, general manager of international affairs at Torani, in an interview.

Building digital “has been a huge change for us. It’s not the way we’ve always worked, ”added Dent.

Prior to March 2020, many businesses had little to no online presence, mainly because they depended on foot traffic and walk-in tours to stay competitive. That changed dramatically during the pandemic, as closures and quarantines forced storefronts to close and led consumers to buy more online.

Torani is a staple in coffee shops around the world, but during COVID-19 consumers “started bringing Torani into their homes like never before, over a million more homes than a few years ago “added Dent.

“Technology has played a great way to connect us and engage with all of these new consumers in a new way,” she said. According to Dent, Torani would not have “prospered” during the pandemic without going digital.

Even as businesses continue to recover, it has become clearer that consumer behavior has shifted towards e-commerce, making it a critical channel for the success of SMEs.

, savvy businesses have also taken advantage of new technology integrations to make setup easier. Remote orders, curbside pickup, online shopping, in-store pickup, the expansion of social media marketing on digital platforms have all become staples of the COVID era.

“We’ve really grown our social team. We started things like TikTok and we’re using more digital, we’re working with influencers because we can’t do our own photoshoots anymore because it wasn’t safe, like in a COVID environment, ”Dent said.

As the U.S. job market struggles to grow, many companies continue to allow flexible hours – as well as hybrid work-from-home options – to attract employees into a tight labor market. But as adoption grows, a significant portion makes it work.

“They are looking at their employees, who now want more flexible working arrangements. They want to work from home, ”said Ortegon of Salesforce.

According to Salesforce data, more than two in five SMBs plan to have their employees work remotely at least half the time, but a similar proportion will have most employees work in person.

Meanwhile, as working arrangements differ by industry, SMEs are more likely to embrace remote working: around 43% of SMEs have long-term work plans from anywhere, according to the report.

“They invest in collaboration and productivity tools for their own employees. So that their employees are productive and can engage with their peers and customers. They want to be successful from anywhere, ”added Ortegon.

Meanwhile, small businesses across the country are finding it increasingly difficult to weather the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic, with many warning they could have collapsed without the financial support of the federal government.

“We made a commitment not to fire anybody, we took a [] ready and it may have helped us figure out how to restrain all of our team members and keep them safe, ”added Dent.

In fact, 67% of participants say community support has been important to the survival of their business during the pandemic, and 69% say government support has been instrumental.

“One in ten told us they wouldn’t be here if it hadn’t been for a combination of government support and community assistance,” Ortegon said.

Dani Romero is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @daniromerotv

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