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Switch to digital pays off in the long-run for small to medium businesses

Salesforce, the global leader in CRM, has released the fifth edition of its Small and Medium Business Trends Report, which reveals 63 percent of SMBs feel the digital-driven operational shifts they’ve made over the past year will benefit their business long-term. 

The report, which surveyed 2,534 SMB owners and leaders, including 152 from across ANZ, sought to determine how SMBs are accelerating their digital investments to meet customer demands, the long term benefits of doing so, and why those businesses who fail to make the shift will be left behind. 

Results showed that the majority of leaders believe many of the operational changes made over the last year will become permanent. These include contactless services such as secure digital payments (39 percent) and digital customer service (33 percent). The shift to omni-channel isn’t going anywhere either with a quarter (22 percent) of SMBs permanently offering mobile orders and 17 per cent continuing to offer curbside pickup post-pandemic. 

Merlin Luck, Regional Vice President of Small and Medium Businesses, Salesforce says whilst running a small or medium business has never been easy, the challenges over the past 18 months have made it harder than ever before.

“What this research tells us is that digitisation is critical for both resilience and growth. Those business owners and leaders that embrace technology and accelerate innovation are better placed to meet rising customer expectations and create meaningful connections.”

Key findings:

  • SMBs accelerate their digital investments to survive tumultuous times: Almost two-thirds (62 per cent) of SMBs in ANZ have increased their online presence over the last year and more than half (57 per cent) could not have survived the pandemic using technology from a decade ago. Growing SMBs have accelerated their investments in technologies across customer service (51 per cent), sales (46 per cent), and marketing (45 per cent). 

  • SMBs foresee long-term changes from the pandemic: During the pandemic, many SMB leaders rethought their strategies in order to keep their business afloat; in doing so, operations have become more efficient than ever. Globally, a quarter (23 percent) of growing SMBs started using e-commerce software for the first time in the past six months. More than a quarter of SMBs in ANZ (28 percent) will continue to offer e-commerce offerings post-pandemic. 

  • Meeting customer expectations require innovation: Globally, three quarters (71 percent) of SMBs say their customers expect online transactions and nearly the same proportion have an e-commerce presence (63 percent). In ANZ, the top three challenges to meeting customer expectations are bringing innovative offerings to market, keeping up with customer demand, and responding to inquiries quickly. 

  • Employee health and wellbeing a priority: As the pandemic continues, employees are voicing expectations for new safety measures at work. The top three employee expectations are flexible schedules, daily sanitation of workspaces or materials, and social distancing at work.

  • Building trust with employees: As SMBs look to build trust after staff were stood down for long periods of time or laid off, many are transforming employee engagement. The top three ways SMBs can earn employee trust are communicating transparently, responding to personal needs, and asking for feedback. 

  • Communities and governments step-up for SMBs: Due to pandemic-induced lockdowns, SMBs found themselves even more resource-strapped. Globally, almost two-thirds of SMBs applied for financial aid including government programs, private loans, and grants. In ANZ, more than a third of respondents say financial support over the last year has been vital to their company’s survival. 

Sustainable furniture company, Living Edge, is one example of a business adopting Salesforce to optimise its ecommerce experience.

“Living Edge now features a more personalised and inspiring browsing experience and in the first month of being live, conversion was up 290 percent,” says Luck.

“The business also deployed contextual live chat – and 20 percent of all online revenue now comes from customers immediately following a chat engagement.”

ANZ level insights have been drawn from a larger global survey of 2,534 SMB owners and leaders from North America, South America, Europe, and Asia Pacific. The survey was conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of Salesforce, between June 21 and July 12, 2021. 

For more information you can access the data in the dashboards here.

Review overview