Digital drives small business recovery

·2 min read
Mark Tomkins co-founded Aubergine, a creative agency helping business owners get online (Photo credit: Joe Madden)
Mark Tomkins co-founded Aubergine, a creative agency helping business owners get online (Photo credit: Joe Madden)

Nearly three quarters of small businesses have boosted their online presence as a result of the pandemic, and it is now starting to pay off as confidence grows.

74 per cent of UK small businesses have upped their social media use for promotional purposes throughout the pandemic, with 43 per cent using e-commerce more and 30 percent increasing their use of paid social media adverts.

Research conducted by Small Business Britain and BT Skills for Tomorrow shows that nearly half (45%) of small business owners feel that using digital tools has been one of the biggest changes they’ve made.

The research - which polled over 1000 firms in Small Business Britain’s community - found that despite more than half of businesses (53%) experiencing an income reduction as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, morale remains high: 60 percent of small businesses feel either very or somewhat confident for the future, and over half of them (55%) feel that changes they’ve made to their businesses have been positive; digital skills are paving the way for recovery.

Michelle Ovens CBE, Founder of Small Business Britain said: “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.”

The onset of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns has caused businesses to make fundamental changes to the way they operate, and 45 percent of small business owners say that the use of digital skills and tools has been the amongst the biggest of those. 37 per cent also pinpointed video conferencing and ecommerce as amongst their most significant changes.

All of these are reliant on not only digital skills, but also a dependable internet connection; a notable 65 percent of small businesses say their need for reliable broadband has increased in the last year.

An increased need for digital tools brings with it a demand for support in this area. Of the businesses polled, 55 percent of them said the area in which they need most support is digital marketing, and 42 percent expressed digital skills in general are what they need help with the most.

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.”

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