Mom and pop get high-tech: Many small businesses go digital for first time during COVID to survive

NEW YORK — As many businesses remain shuttered due to COVID-19 lockdowns, entrepreneurs are doing everything they can to stay afloat. One of those things is taking their brick-and-mortar stores into the digital era. A new survey finds 31 percent of small business owners say embracing new technology is helping their business during COVID-19.

The OnePoll survey of 1,000 small business owners also finds the pandemic accelerated the adoption of digital tools for 25 percent of the poll.

Small Businesses digital

The effects of the pandemic on small businesses may be far-reaching, but the survey reveals a cautiously optimistic forecast — likely due in part to business owners’ quick thinking. While 57 percent of respondents say COVID-19 had a “somewhat” or “very” negative impact on their small business, 36 percent reported the pandemic had no impact and seven percent say it actually benefited their business.

Once they’re able to resume business as usual, the average respondent believes the adverse effects of COVID-19 will be negligible within a year.

Small businesses embrace innovation in quarantine

The survey, commissioned by Melio, also revealed that many respondents were able to adapt and even evolve during the crisis by rethinking the way they operate on a daily basis. Among some of the successful strategies, respondents say they managed to enable their employees to work from home (23%), digitize the way they get paid by customers (23%), and the way they pay vendors (19%).

In addition to that, 19 percent of the poll increased their online advertising and marketing efforts while 17 percent revamped their business’ website to keep it up to date during the pandemic. Specifically, one in five increased their digital presence through social media and 22 percent started selling products online.

“As a wine director of a restaurant, this time has been a great time to explore new systems and new ways to generate revenue,” says Rania Zayyat, founder of Wonder Woman of Wine, in a statement.

Younger owners are adjusting better

Small Businesses digital

Interestingly enough, younger small business owners were more likely to make several of these changes to keep their companies afloat. Fifty-six percent of respondents between the ages of 26 and 41 said they discovered new ways to allow employees to work from home. Just 17 percent of entrepreneurs 57 or older did the same.

In the same vein, 39 percent of younger respondents digitized the way they get paid by customers. Only 12 percent of older business owners took their money-making abilities into the digital world. Twenty-seven percent of respondents between 26 and 41 add that embracing technology helped their business during COVID-19; a sentiment shared by only seven percent of those over age 57.

“If there’s one lesson to be learned from the survey, it’s that many small businesses have faith in their ability to ride out the storm,” a spokesperson from Melio says. “But that’s only true if they’ll learn to think on their feet, and are willing to explore out-of-the-box solutions and the adoption of new technologies.”

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