New research suggests that growing small and medium-sized businesses are conforming to more digital transformation and adaptability after-effect of the COVID-19 pandemic

Recently, Salesforce published a report to highlight the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) and how the owners and leaders of 2300 surveyed businesses are responding. This research also analyzed the role of digital transformation and how it is beneficial to make the businesses more resilient, and how these business owners are planning to get back on their feet once the pandemic is over.

It has been noticed that the adoption of digital technologies by these businesses has seen rampant growth during the past several years. But amid the pandemic, this growth has spiked to unprecedented rates.

During these exceptionally challenging times, the Salesforce report has chalked out several trends in the SMB report.

First, the SMBs are prioritizing customer safety and shift interactions more than ever before.

In totality, around 64% of the SMBs are now focusing on safety and sanitation policies, while 59% of these SMBs are looking over local public health mandates like mask requirements. 48% of SMBs are incorporating digital shopping measures for contactless services, and 43% of SMBs are practicing social distancing measures in their business facilities.

There are several major challenges that these SMBs are facing to meet customer expectations during these trying times.

Around 47-61% of SMBs are facing difficulties in bringing innovative offerings to the market. 41-55% of SMBs are finding it hard to keep up with the demands, and 40-50% of the SMBs are having difficulty in personalizing customer engagements. Almost 38-55% of these businesses are finding it hard to implement safety and sanitation measures. Around 30-50% SMBs are facing challenges in providing quality products, responding to inquiries quickly, and in providing a connected experience to the consumers.

The new challenges that these SMBs faced in March through August 2020 include 44-48% of difficulties in acquiring new customers, up to 28% of challenges in planning for the longer terms, while 23-26% of businesses are worried over the retention of existing customers. 25% of SMBs are having difficulty in financial management, and 22-25% of the difficulties revolve around achieving a work-life balance.

The report further explained the most constraining factors for SMBs amid the pandemic.

Around 55% of SMBs are fighting through reduced revenue, around 54% of them are facing reduced customer demand. For 38% of SMBs, public health mandates are quite constraining, and 32% of SMBs have supply chain disruptions and problems due to changing regulations.

Amongst the industries most affected, 69% of SMB leaders from the consumer products industry have reported that they are struggling to keep their business alive and thriving somehow. 67% of leaders from Retail, Hospitality, Travel, and Transportation industries are also struggling. 51-53% of the struggling businesses include the industries of Technology, Manufacturing, and Healthcare, respectively.

In terms of digital forwardness, in Stagnant and Growing SMBs, 51% of SMBs in total feel that digital technology helps them drive their customer interactions better, 46% of them believe that Digi tech influences their organization’s ability to stay open and in business. 40-42% of SMBs think that tech drives employee productivity and also the growth of their customer base. 32% of SMBs think that digital tech helps them with cross-functional collaboration, and 13-14% of SMBs say that technology does not influence their business much.

When evaluating technology, 74% of SMB leaders look for its ease of use, and 73% for technology that helps in gaining the trustworthiness of vendors. 71% for pricing and 66-67% go for its simplicity of maintenance and its impact on customer experience.

There has been a 24% increase in the usage of CRM systems by SMBs since 2019. In March 2019, this usage was around 45% only, and by August 2020, the CRM systems usage was noted to be 56%.

CRM systems provide better and faster customer service, a unified view of the customer, and make the organization visible and accessible to multiple customers while integrating with other systems.

Apart from CRM, SMB owners and leaders are now investing a lot in email marketing software, customer service software, project collaboration tools, and e-commerce tools and software.

Post pandemic, more than 43% of SMB leaders consider to apply for financial assistance, 25% of them will most likely achieve financial stability by decreasing staff, 16% of them will retire staff who were previously laid off, 15% will close the business for a short period and 9% leader will close the business permanently.




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