Since the start of the pandemic, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) across Asia have found creative and innovative ways to keep pace with evolving customer expectations and drive business growth. In the face of great upheaval, the characteristic grit and resourcefulness of SMBs has been on full display.
Eighteen months on from the start of the pandemic, what will be the new mandate for business transformation?
We are excited to launch the fifth edition of the Small and Medium Business Trends Report. The report reveals how SMB owners are adapting to an ever-shifting business landscape and preparing for the future. It surveys over 2,500 SMB owners and leaders worldwide, including from Singapore and Thailand.
Here are four key takeaways from the report:
1. Support goes both ways as communities step up and SMBs respond to customer needs
Globally, two-thirds of SMB leaders say community support has been important to their company’s survival during the pandemic.
In Singapore and Thailand, that community support has been even more critical, with 78% of SMB leaders saying it has helped their businesses survive. For the retail sector, that figure jumps to 85%.
That much-needed support hasn’t gone without a response. SMB leaders have stepped up to cater to customer needs and build trust during the pandemic. In Singapore and Thailand, 66% of SMBs are offering their customers more flexibility. Fifty-six percent have expanded ways for their customers to reach them. Omni-channel, personalised engagements, quick and seamless customer service, and connected customer experience have built trust and loyalty when it’s most needed.
2. Growing SMBs prioritise employee engagement
Meeting employee expectations for flexible schedules, remote work, and COVID-safe workplaces has been imperative for successful SMBs. The report reveals that SMB leaders have created trusted relationships with employees by responding to their needs, asking for feedback, and allowing autonomy.
3. Growing SMBs accelerate investment in digital
All SMB leaders surveyed in Singapore and Thailand have moved a portion of their operations online in the past year, with almost half moving between 51% and 100% of their operations online. This will help them cater to the new digital imperative in customer service and enable a safer remote working environment. Many leaders are making these changes permanently, which will continue to benefit them in the long term.
This is a crucial step to building resilience in SMBs. The latest State of the Connected Customer report shows 68% of customers say they’re online more often than not and nearly two-thirds say they expect to be online more after the pandemic than before.
Most growing SMBs (71%) say their business survived the pandemic because of digitisation. In Singapore and Thailand, 68% are accelerating their investment in customer service to manage customers’ expectations and deepen customer relationships in the evolving digital landscape. This has proved that a focus on customer experience is even more of a differentiator for growth in the digital-world. It also makes it clear that the right technology can help SMBs build relationships with their customers and establish a good foundation for growth.
What kinds of technology are growing SMBs investing in? The findings show that growing SMBs have moved the majority of their operations online, prioritising customer service, sales, marketing, and IT operations. The types of software that growing SMBs use include customer service software, email marketing software, and ecommerce software. The research also shows that even the majority of stagnant/declining SMBs are investing in these four areas.
Salesforce helps small businesses find more customers, win their business, and keep them happy so you can scale and succeed. Learn more about our small business CRM solutions.
4. Growing SMBs look to the future and learn from the past
After an extended period of uncertainty, many SMBs are finding the steps they’ve taken to survive the impact of the pandemic have made them more efficient. In Singapore and Thailand, 91% of SMB owners feel the operational shifts they’ve made over the last year will benefit their businesses going forward. In Singapore, 88% of growing SMBs have created scenario plans to prepare for future crises. In Thailand, the number is 96%.
Implementing digital solutions to deal with the demands of a socially distanced customer base has set SMBs up well to cope with future consumer trends. Ninety-two percent of Thai and Singapore-based SMBs plan to make contactless services available permanently. Secure digital payments, digital customer service, and ecommerce are set to become the standard ingredients of a contactless shopping experience.
Agility and innovation are necessary for long-term growth
The past 18 months have been a rollercoaster ride for SMBs. For many, the dips have far outweighed the peaks. However, this latest research demonstrates that the reputation SMBs have for being agile in the face of change and resilient in the face of challenge is well deserved.
As savvy SMBs prioritise solutions and relationships that fortify their businesses, they will be well equipped to weather whatever may come their way. Now is the time to take inspiration from businesses that have thrived and use the lessons learned during the pandemic. Last but not least, it’s time to leverage the latest research insights to help you build resilience for the future.
Read the the fifth edition of the Small and Medium Business Trends Report to learn how small and fast-growing businesses have adapted their operations for success.