In early 2020, as the global economy thrived, most small- and medium-sized business (SMB) leaders were focused on how to win new customers and access capital. But, the onset of COVID-19 brought new challenges, including a health and economic crisis. As a result, SMB leaders have had to adapt, but a surprising number remain optimistic about the future of their businesses while navigating uncertainty.
Today we released the fourth edition of the “Small and Medium Business Trends Report.” The report looks at how 2,300+ global SMBs are evolving in the midst of so much change. We had the unique opportunity to survey these business leaders in March 2020 and again in August 2020. Obviously, a lot has happened during those months.
The report shows how much SMBs have shifted their business operations over the past six months. These insights can help SMB leaders adapt and prepare for the next normal as the business landscape continues to deal with the pandemic.
Here’s a look at what’s changed for SMBs between March and August:
It’s more challenging than ever to meet customer expectations. SMBs have to worry more about safety and sanitation, meeting local health mandates, and offering contactless service. Implementing these measures is one thing, but making customers aware of them is another. So, it’s no surprise that 55% of the businesses surveyed are more careful about how they communicate with customers — and almost half have expanded the ways customers can get in touch with them.
Unsurprisingly, SMBs are leaning into technology to keep customers close. Over half of growing SMBs say tech drives their customer interactions or customer base growth. Really, businesses are meeting customers where they’re most comfortable: 63% of millennial consumers — and 61% of Gen Z consumers — surveyed in July 2020 say they’re more likely to support small businesses with a digital presence.
SMBs now lean into customer-focused tech in all kinds of ways, from offering online ordering for curbside pickup or delivery, to putting more focus on email and social media messaging. We also see a continued embrace of business technologies like customer relationship management (CRM). SMB leaders who use CRM cited delivering better and faster customer service as the technology’s biggest benefit.
We mentioned SMBs use technology to keep customers close as they figure out how and when in-person business can happen safely. The pandemic is also driving those able to invest, to consider ways tech can help shape their future for the better. Growing SMBs, in particular, focus on three key areas where technology can help: customer interactions, workflows, and internal communications.
What’s really interesting is businesses are using fewer apps to get more done — and they’d love to use even fewer. The average number of apps SMBs use to run their business dropped over the past year. This coincides with a 24% increase since 2019 in SMBs’ use of a CRM system — CRMs are now used in more than half of SMBs and offer centralised systems for sales, service, and marketing within the same app. The technology (68%), consumer products (68%), and manufacturing (64%) industries are the biggest users of CRM systems.
“Growing SMBs are 65% more likely to have accelerated their pace of technology investments due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Greg Howell, Founder and President of Flexo Concepts, a small manufacturing business in Plymouth, MA, put it best, “We're starting to have those conversations today that we thought we might have 10 years from now. And the platform, and the ability for folks to work remotely, and the ability to quantify the work that's being done, has made that all possible.”
Learn how SMBs are navigating the present and preparing for the future, by downloading and reading our latest Small & Medium Business Trends Report. Plus, find out the new technology trends reshaping the business world and see how they can help set up your business for growth.
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