According to a new study, small businesses that adopted digital tools early and aggressively – before COVID-19 started – have significantly outperformed small businesses that were hesitant to embrace digital technologies.
The report from the Connected Commerce Council (3C) shows that since the pandemic started a year ago, “digitally advanced” businesses hired employees at more than twice the rate of “digitally uncertain” small businesses and lost only 12% of their revenue compared to 23%.
Small Businesses Adopting Technology Early Did Better During Pandemic
The report, called Digitally Driven: 2021, surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. businesses. The data shows that small businesses that intensively adopted cost-effective digital tools pre-pandemic have not just survived. They are better prepared to thrive during the coming post-pandemic era.
The digital tools used by small businesses during COVID-19 are known as a “Digital Safety Net”. The Net includes online advertising to find customers, social media, financial and organizational tools to keep the business running smoothly, and the use of online marketplaces to sell products. .
Key Takeaways from Digitally Driven
One year into the pandemic, 59% of small businesses reported that digital tools are more helpful to them now than prior to the start of the lockdowns and restrictions caused by COVID-19.
40% of small businesses are Digitally Advanced (use a large and diverse number of tools) compared to 24% that are Digitally Uncertain (low adoption rates and remain skeptical of digital tools).
Nearly all (97%) digitally advanced small businesses adopted new digital tools and business strategies during the pandemic, while only half (51%) of uncertain businesses did.
Digitally advanced businesses retained customers at a 5x better rate and acquired new customers at a 20x better rate during the pandemic.
Government and Private Sector Cooperation Is Key
The bottom line, according to the report, is the economy has entered a new normal. In the new normal, both big and small businesses will be going digital in the months and years to come.
To help those businesses which are lagging, the report says the fundamental goal of economic and small business policy “must be to convert digitally uncertain small businesses into digitally advanced small businesses.”
“The digital safety net has great benefits for small businesses,” said Lou Wasson, spokesperson for the Connected Commerce Council. “But for the digital safety net to be effective, small businesses require greater access to these tools.”
The report states that government can help small businesses by working with the private sector. The goal is to provide more education and training opportunities to help them overcome their lack of knowledge and/or hesitation about investing in digital resources. Once they invest in digital resources, they can become more resilient.
3C President Jake Ward said in a statement that “the Digital Safety Net is real and that it helps small businesses survive economic downturns and emerge stronger than businesses that do not embrace technology. The past year has seen tremendous small business suffering. But for small businesses that are still struggling, it is never too late to integrate Digital Safety Net tools into your business.”
Stats from the Digitally Driven Preview 2021 Report
Approximately 11 million small businesses (37%) would have closed all or part of their business without digital tools.
81% of SMBs report changing their business to incorporate new digital tools and strategies due to COVID.
93% of small businesses report maintaining or increasing their use of digital tools post-COVID.
Nearly all (97%) digitally advanced small businesses adopted new digital tools and business strategies during the pandemic, while only half (51%) of digitally uncertain businesses did.