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Digital Transformation

New Report: 71% of Growing Small and Medium Businesses Survived the Pandemic by Going Digital

SMB Trends

Today, Salesforce launched the fifth edition of its “Small and Medium Business Trends” report. Conducted by The Harris Poll in June and July, the research includes responses from more than 2,500 small and medium business (SMB) owners and leaders across North America, South America, Europe, and Asia Pacific. 

The results highlight several clear ways small and medium businesses find success in a digital world. 

For example, 67% of SMB leader participants say community support has been important to their company’s survival during the pandemic. 69% report government support, too, has been instrumental. 

And as the events of the past year and half shined a light on some of society’s deepest inequalities and brought racial justice and equality to the forefront, communities have taken action to support and invest in Black and Latinx-led businesses. More than half of Black (59%) and Latinx (65%) SMB leaders* leader participants report that financial support from their communities has been vital to business survival over the past year. 

Highlights from the report can be found below. 

Small businesses prioritize employee and customer trust 

The most successful small and medium businesses are those that are taking action to earn employee trust. Research shows that 50% of SMBs with growing revenue have offered flexible working arrangements during the pandemic, compared to 38% of their stagnant/declining peers.

These businesses are working hard to build trust with customers, too. For instance, 75% of growing SMBs say their customers expect online transactions. Accordingly, 72% of them have an ecommerce presence — including over one-third (35%) who added it within the past year. Additionally, 95% of growing SMBs are taking action to secure company data and protect customer information from cyberattacks.

SMBs embrace a digital-first world

Small businesses, in most cases, weren’t prepared for the pandemic and its economic impact, which forced many of them to digitize. They had to make sure their employees could communicate, collaborate, and drive sales safely in a changing world. 

71% of SMBs say they survived the pandemic through digitization, and 66% say their businesses could not have survived the pandemic using technology from a decade ago. Additionally: 

  • 72% of SMBs have increased their company’s online presence over the past year.
  • 42% of growing SMBs have accelerated their technology investments over the past year (compared to 33% in August 2020). 
  • 51% of growing SMBs have accelerated their investments in customer service technology over the past year. Currently, 65% use customer service software.

SMBs foresee long-term changes from the pandemic

As all SMBs (growing and stagnant) move forward, many of them — 75% in fact — believe shifts they’ve made to business operations over the past year will benefit business long term. And when it comes to how all SMBs envision the future of their workforce, 43% plan to have employees split their time between in-person and remote work or be mostly remote.

Additionally, growing SMBs are more likely to plan for the future, or scenario plan. 77% of growing SMBs say they have created scenario plans to prepare for future crises, no matter what happens.

Country-by-country trends show global impact

Despite the economic impact of the pandemic, the majority of SMB leaders in Thailand (96%), Brazil (94%), Singapore (86%), Netherlands (83%) and Colombia (83%) feel the operational shifts they’ve made over the past year will benefit their business long-term. 

SMBs are also making an active effort to prioritize customer needs. In Thailand (68%), India (59%), Brazil (61%), Colombia (68%), Singapore (44%) and Mexico (52%) SMBs have expanded the ways customers can reach them, in addition to offering customers more flexibility in Thailand (79%) and India (56%). While reflecting on the past year, SMB leaders in Thailand (89%), Singapore (66%), India (62%), Brazil (52%) and Italy (51%) say financial support from their community has been vital to their business’ survival. 

For a deeper analysis of findings, visit the Salesforce blog and download the full ”Small and Medium Business Trends” report

*Caution Small base size (less than 100); results should be interpreted as directional.


A survey was conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of Salesforce between June 21st 2021 and July 12th 2021 among 2,534 SMB owners and leaders in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia Pacific. Respondents are 18 years of age or older, employed full-time, part-time, or self-employed, and owners or senior executives at their businesses with 2-200 employees and annual revenue of less than $1 billion.

Data points were weighted by number of employees to bring them into line with actual company size proportions in the population. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

All respondents are third-party panelists (not limited to Salesforce customers).


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