Yell Business has today released new research into how small businesses have adapted to survive in light of Covid-19 and how the pandemic is changing the way businesses and consumers communicate.
The new study reveals the scale of the challenge business owners have faced in recent months with three quarters (76%) of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) introducing a new service as a result of Covid-19. Of those SMEs introducing new services:
- 34% started doing online video consultations or viewings
- 32% have started taking online bookings
- 25% introduced contactless payment systems
- 25% started home delivery services
Over half (52%) of businesses who introduced a new service said it was crucial for them to be able to survive the pandemic, with 88% of businesses stating they plan on continuing the service post Covid-19.
Who’s getting the message?
The research also identified how the global pandemic has accelerated changes in the ways businesses are communicating with their customers. Over three quarters (76%) of SMEs have introduced new ways of communicating in 2020 with instant messaging platforms coming to the fore. Over one in five (21%) have started using WhatsApp and 20% have started using online video calling to communicate with customers. 17% of SMEs have started texting their customers for the first time whilst 9% have implemented chatbots.
While a phone call and email are still ingrained as the most popular communication methods for SMEs and consumers alike, the most effective marketing communication tool used by businesses during the pandemic was found to be a Facebook page. When asked whether the tool had been either ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ effective since March’s national lockdown, 51% of businesses stated that it had. Text messaging (50%), email newsletters (48%), Facebook Messenger (47%), WhatsApp (46%) and an Instagram account (43%) followed.
Getting the message in an instant
The emergence of instant messaging tools such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and other social messaging platforms as vital communication tools for businesses was identified in the research. Over half (53%) of SMEs surveyed said that instant messaging is key for business success post Covid-19, whilst 39% stated they had seen an uplift in enquiries thanks to using instant messaging services during the pandemic. 38% said that they had seen increased customer satisfaction and 33% saw an uplift in repeat business.
Choosing the correct channel to communicate with customers was found to have far reaching benefits for businesses too. Yell’s research revealed that over a third (36%) of consumers would be more likely to buy from a business that communicated with them on their preferred channel. 28% of consumers would be more likely to recommend the business to a friend and 24% would be more likely to spend more with that business. Conversely, if an SME communicated with a customer on the wrong channel, 37% of consumers wouldn’t use that business again and 18% would even leave a bad review for the business.
Optimism in the face of adversity
Despite the challenges brought on by Covid-19, businesses remain positive for the future. 71% of SME owners state that they are optimistic about the success of their business in 2021 and, on average, 71% of SMEs said they were more prepared to deal with another lockdown.
Claire Miles, Chief Executive Officer of Yell said, “The last six months have been incredibly tough for small businesses across the country but it’s heartening to see that the majority of SMEs remain optimistic in the face of adversity. Our diverse local businesses are the cornerstones of our community, which is why it’s crucial that now, more than ever, Yell continues to champion small businesses and provide the digital tools and insights needed for them to thrive.
“Our research highlights not only the sheer adaptability of SMEs but also their ability to find the right way to communicate change to their existing and potential customers. It’s clear that during these uncertain times, instant messaging services have been a real lifeline to businesses who have had to adapt and adjust their models quickly. Instant messaging facilitates timely and conversational communication between businesses and consumers and as the findings show, many SMEs will still be relying on these services to succeed post pandemic.”