Research indicates that during the pandemic the majority of small businesses in the UK increased their social media presence and are now benefitting from their digital exploits. The past 18 months have had a devastating effect across all sectors and as physical operations ground to a halt business owners were faced with having to pivot in order to survive.
Results from a poll of 1,000 UK small businesses reveals that 74 percent increased their usage of social media during lockdowns to raise brand awareness, with 43 percent spending more time and resources on e-commerce and 30% increasing their paid social media advertising.
Research undertaken by Small Business Britain in conjunction with BT Skills for Tomorrow reveals that 45 percent of small business owners believed that using digital tools was one of the most significant changes they made. While 37 percent identified video conferencing and a switch to e-commerce as the most important changes taken.
A positive outlook
Further results from the research showed that just over half of businesses (53%) suffered a reduction in income as a direct result of the pandemic. Business owners are a spirited bunch and the lockdowns haven’t dampened their confidence because 60 percent remained positive about the future. Just over half of the small business owners surveyed (55%) were confident that the changes they made to their businesses were positive.
Michelle Ovens CBE, Founder of Small Business Britain stated: “Small businesses across the UK have done amazingly well to react to such testing conditions over the past 18 months and this research shows just how adaptable they can be, especially when it comes to all things digital.
“Our data shows that business owners feel they could use more support in this area, so we must do everything we can to help them to enhance their digital abilities and ensure that they get a well-deserved boost on the road to recovery.”
A significant factor in enabling change for small businesses was having a reliable broadband service, almost two thirds surveyed stated their need for the best connectivity had increased since before the pandemic.
Digital support is needed
Learning new digital skills is all well and good but business owners don’t become experts in this new discipline overnight and support is needed. Of those surveyed, 55 percent stated digital marketing was the area they needed the most support in and 42 percent said they needed help with general digital skills.
Chris Sims, BT’s managing director for its SoHo (Single/Small office, Home office) unit, said: “With almost two thirds of small businesses seeing an increased need for a reliable broadband connection in the last year and over 70% upping their social media use for promotional purposes, it’s clear that small businesses are increasingly reliant on digital tools to help grow their businesses.
“At BT we’re committed to helping small firms to boost both their connectivity and confidence. With 42 percent wanting more support with digital skills, we’re providing free workshops and mentoring through our BT Skills for Tomorrow programme to help equip small business owners with the skills and knowledge required to succeed in the digital world.”
Soaring popularity of independent traders
Further research makes for more positive reading because the popularity of small businesses has increased during the pandemic, with just over half (51%) of people surveyed by Small Business Saturday admitting they prefer backing local independents. The survey also revealed that just under half (49%) of people in the UK felt more positive towards smaller businesses than before the pandemic.
Although many small businesses owners would have probably increased their digital presence at some stage in the future, the Covid 19 pandemic expedited the process and hopefully these new found digital skills will make their businesses more robust moving forward.
Judging by the results of this research, business owners that hadn’t ventured into the world of digital marketing before the pandemic are not looking back but are embracing the digital era and driving their businesses onwards and upwards.
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