Not only are growing businesses the foundation of our economy, they’re also the very core of our society. The past few years have been filled with ups and downs, leaving many of these businesses faced with uncertainty. To take the pulse of the industry, we surveyed more than 2,500 small and midsize business owners and leaders across the globe to answer questions about the future of entrepreneurialism in the latest edition of our Small and Medium Business Trends Report. From pandemic restrictions and supply chain challenges to operational changes and the Great Resignation, small and midsize businesses (SMBs) have been through the wringer. Let’s see how the information we’ve gleaned from these small business statistics can better inform us now.
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Here are some telling small business trends that grabbed our interest.
1. SMBs are looking to deepen relationships with customers
Growing SMBs are doing several things to deepen customer relationships, enhance communications, and address new expectations since the start of the pandemic. Several statistics stood out in this area:
- Nearly half of growing SMBs (49%) said they’re more careful about their customer communications. This includes not only targeted messages, but also transparency about what they’re doing to address pandemic-specific concerns (e.g., food pickup/delivery).
- They’re also expanding how customers can reach them. Many SMBs are now using SMS and other real-time messaging platforms to offer instant customer service. Forty-six percent of growing SMBs said they’ve expanded the ways customers can reach them.
- Forty-three percent of growing SMBs are offering more flexibility to customers, including around payment terms. Customers are in control and need to be treated as such.
- Just under a third of growing SMBs (31%) are prioritizing developing long-term customer relationships over one-time transactions.
2. Communities and governments are stepping up to help SMBs
SMBs have found themselves even more resource-strapped than usual. They’ve faced shutdowns and decreased traffic — all while struggling to maintain revenue streams. But governments and local communities have truly stepped up to help. Two-thirds of SMB leaders say community support has been important to their company’s survival.
Most small and midsize businesses applied for and received some type of financial aid during the pandemic. Midsize businesses, which often have higher operational costs, are more likely than their smaller counterparts to have done so. More than half of SMB aid applicants received help, with small businesses more likely to have received national/federal government aid.
About two-thirds of SMB leaders say the government and community support they’ve received has been important to their company’s survival – and more than one in 10 say it’s absolutely critical.
3. Small and midsize businesses embrace the digital-first world
In our unpredictable world, SMB leaders are accelerating their investments in technology — seeking tools and apps to help their businesses survive even the most tumultuous times. More than half of growing SMBs accelerated investments in sales and customer service technology over the past year.
A significant majority of SMBs (83%) have at least some of their operations online; of those, nearly all of them (95%) moved a portion of their operations online in the past year. Safety and convenience for customers and employees is perhaps what’s driving this shift. Nearly three-quarters of SMBs have increased their online presence via social media, ads, email, and more during this time.
4. SMBs foresee long-term changes post-pandemic
It’s no surprise that SMB leaders have rethought their strategies in order to keep their businesses afloat; in doing so, operations became smoother and more efficient. Why stop now? Many SMBs plan to keep some of those changes permanently. In fact, three-quarters of small and midsize leaders believe shifts they’ve made to business operations over the past year will continue to benefit them in the long-term.
Perhaps that is why business leaders feel optimistic about the future. The pandemic has tested us all personally and professionally, and one thing we continue to hear from our customers is that we’re learning we’re a lot stronger than we thought. We can pivot, change, and take these challenges head on. SMB business leaders are a resilient group. The future looks bright!
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*Small sample size (n<100), results must be interpreted directionally.