Gain insights from small business owners across a wide range of industries on how COVID-19 is affecting their business operations, workforce and future planning.
Small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities — yet many of these beloved businesses have been hit the hardest by the Covid-19 pandemic.
To better understand how the coronavirus is impacting Main Street USA – and how the faces behind small businesses are coping – I recently connected with Eileen Diskin, chief marketing officer at Comcast Business.
Comcast Business is the nation’s largest cable provider to small and mid-size businesses and one of the largest contributors to the growth of Comcast Cable. She shared insights from Comcast Business’ survey of nearly 600 small- and medium sized business owners on how the pandemic is affecting small businesses’ operations, workforce – and plans for the future.
Overall, how are SMBs feeling right now? What industries have been hardest hit and how have they managed?
Small business owners are entrepreneurs at heart. They wear multiple hats and problem-solving is part of their DNA. When the pandemic first hit, they inherently jumped into action and applied that entrepreneurial spirit and passion to figure out how to keep their business going because it’s simply what they had to do.
Comcast Business’ survey looked further into how SMBs have managed throughout the pandemic by surveying a wide range of industries – including restaurants, nail salons, barber shops, dry cleaners, accountants and more. Not surprisingly, restaurants have been among the hardest hit. But the owners behind all of these businesses have shown incredible resolve and agility by rethinking how they do business (46%), with some taking their businesses online for the very first time. In addition, half re-imagined how to serve customers through new programs like curbside pickup, and 45% came up with new ways to collaborate and communicate like swapping paper menus for QR codes.
A recent Prosper Insights & Analytics survey found similar sentiment among SMBs. According to the data, 75% of small business owners expressed concern about there being a second wave of COVID-19 later this year, up from 71% in September.
As a result of business owners’ resiliency and entrepreneurial efforts, the majority (78%) of SMBs feel prepared for another surge of the virus and even more (87%) feel more prepared for the future in general.
What has been the financial impact to small businesses so far? What does the outlook look like for next year?
The pandemic has not only affected how businesses across industries do business and serve customers, but it has also had a major impact on their bottom lines. Our survey also found that 86% of respondents have experienced a decline in business revenue this year — with 70% projecting to lose up to half their annual revenue in 2020.
With Prosper data reporting that nearly one in four adults are in a worse financial situation than this time last year, there’s no doubt that consumers’ changing financial positions are impacting the stability of SMBs.
As far as the outlook for next year and feelings around preparedness for the future, one in five businesses (21%) report having resumed normal operations, while more than half (53%) predict it will take six months to a year to return to “normal.” SMBs’ newfound confidence in how they responded to the first wave of the pandemic is helping prepare them for the weeks, months and years ahead.
What are small businesses doing to prepare and adapt for a second wave? How do you anticipate they will continue to adapt?
Consumers have changed their shopping behaviors as a result of Covid-19. In fact, consumers are shopping in stores less (58%) and shopping more online (44%), according to recent Prosper Insights & Analytics data. Some consumers are even avoiding certain types of stores or shopping centers altogether (36%). Across the country, more consumers are hunkering down at home – and that’s changing the way small businesses interact with their customers in a big way.
In our recent qualitative research, we’ve heard a lot about ‘inertia’ – how the circumstances of Covid-19 had taken long-thought-about plans to upgrade and reimagine their business (technologically speaking) and suddenly gave them the impetus to do it. The pandemic has — and will continue to be — an accelerator for this innovation.
It’s also forced creativity – we’ve heard incredible stories from customers, like a pastor who started ministering on the car lot and online and countless stories of businesses that, whether they wanted to or not, suddenly found a way to go virtual. Covid-19 has forced a spirit of inventiveness that we expect will only continue on as we head into 2021.
How has technology played a role in SMBs ability to adapt during the pandemic?
I mentioned previously how we’ve heard from many customers who have reimagined their business and accelerated the adoption of technology to support. Our data supports the qualitative assessment that Covid-19 has forced SMB owners to become more tech savvy. Nearly one-third of SMB owners (31%) said they never would have implemented the technology they’ve adopted if it weren’t for the pandemic, and now, 79% consider themselves more tech savvy than ever.
As a result, many businesses are now more agile and advanced than they were before, giving them the ability to implement more efficient and streamlined operations for the future.
What are companies like Comcast Business doing to show support for SMBs right now?
Right at the onset of the pandemic, Comcast Business, and countless other companies across the country, introduced new technologies and provided access to information and free or discounted tools to help small businesses carry on with their regular processes and make “work as normal” as close to reality as possible.
Most recently, Comcast Business introduced Comcast RISE, a new initiative that will provide the hardest hit SMBs (starting with Black-owned businesses) access to grants, marketing resources, technology and more to help them strengthen and survive.
We’ve also teamed up with leading brands, including American Express, Inc., Amazon Web Services, and more, to develop free webinars, resources, and tools for businesses navigating this new environment.
And finally, the Comcast Business At Home solution allows businesses to better support remote workers by paying for a dedicated, secure in-home Internet connection for professional use – while ensuring the bandwidth in their home connection remains available for other uses, such as schooling and entertainment.
SMBs have been hit hard by the pandemic, but both Comcast Business’ and Prosper Insights & Analytics’ data show there are bright spots about what the future holds. We are truly encouraged and inspired by their resilience, resolve and agility.
This article was written by Gary Drenik from Forbes and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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