SMEs remain optimistic about future despite pandemic

Companies adopt new technologies in response to consumer behaviour

Photograph: iStock

Photograph: iStock

 

Most small business owners in Ireland are optimistic about their future, despite the ongoing challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.

That is the result of a new study, the Visa Back to Business Study, that questioned small business owners throughout Ireland and seven other countries.

But 63 per cent said their businesses were still recovering from a challenging year, with only 37 per cent of businesses saying the past year has been one of opportunity.

The survey found changing consumer behaviour presented the biggest challenge for business owners, with 31 per cent citing it in the survey. Some 85 per cent of small businesses said they had adopted new technologies in response to that shift since the onset of the pandemic, including introducing online shopping or click and collect services.

Among other obstacles presenting to businesses were keeping staff safe, gaining access to capital, keeping employees and overcoming technological barriers.

The survey also showed the progression in recent months in the adoption of technologies such as contactless payments. In June 2020, 15 per cent of small businesses had begun offering contactless payments to customers; that now stands at 47 per cent.

That ties in with trends among consumers that indicate almost 40 per cent would not shop in a store that didn’t offer contactless payments, with 64 per cent saying they would prefer to continue using the payment method where possible once the pandemic was over.

Consumers are also becoming increasingly savvy about safety when shopping online, with 81 per cent saying they had recently taken some measure to protect themselves from fraud. More than half said they monitored online transactions for suspicious activity and just under a third have recently updated the security on their devices.

“Small businesses have shown determination and resilience throughout the pandemic, with many adapting quickly to a new normal,” said Dominic White, acting country manager Ireland, Visa. “As people continue to shop online and use digital payments in store, there is great opportunity for small businesses to keep innovating and finding new ways to serve their communities. With the support of our partners, we’re arming small businesses with tools and resources to empower them to maximise sales, so they can rebuild for long-term recovery”.