The effects of the pandemic on businesses are already noticeable, the world has changed and the ‘new normality’ is still uncertain to us. But what have we learned from COVID-19 and what will be its legacy for the future?
To find out, we asked 412 businesses in Britain how they’ve adapted to the crisis and how it’s impacted their business and its digitalisation. For more detailed info on our methodology, scroll to the bottom of the article.
We have observed four ways in which the pandemic has impacted SMEs:
- Over a third of companies (39%) didn’t have a business continuity plan in place before the crisis.
- 51% of SMEs have had to make an investment in software in response to the COVID-19 crisis.
- Companies are forgetting the importance of brand image in the short term.
- Employee retention is key to business survival.
1. Business continuity plans will become the norm
The results of the survey showed that a third of SMEs in Britain believe they will only last until the end of the year with the current measures. In addition, 39% of the surveyed decision-makers stated that there wasn’t a business continuity plan in their company before the pandemic.
Having a solid plan for unexpected events is crucial. The price of not having a plan can mean loss of data and making the business more vulnerable.
A successful business continuity plan outlines procedures to ensure that the core business functions (business processes, human resources and assets) resume as quickly as possible after a natural disaster or a cyber attack.
The Business Continuity Institute (BCI) provides advice and resources for businesses that look to develop a plan as a response to the COVID-19 crisis.
2. Software will become (even more) a vital tool for SMEs
The results have stressed the importance of having a business continuity plan, but having the right software is almost as vital.
Most purchase decisions made during the crisis were decisions based on ‘patching up’ – like implementing software that allows employees to work from home when the lockdown began.
This has impacted the way companies have based their software purchase decisions, over half of decision-makers (51%) have been forced to invest in new software due to the pandemic.
Industries like tourism and real estate use virtual tour and digital signature software to continue to serve their customers. Most businesses had to reallocate their annual software budget and move the timeline six months forward due to the pandemic.
The pandemic has not only impacted the software buying decisions in companies but also, in some cases, it has become critical to change their business model to be able to keep operating.
3. Why brand image still matters in times of crisis
Reputation and brand image are key to business success, especially in times of crisis. This doesn’t have to be negative, on the contrary: It can present an opportunity for companies to assess their image and also rethink the way they present themselves in front of customers.
During times of crisis, brand image can be one of the forgotten priorities for SMEs when looking to survive – 60% of managers surveyed don’t consider improving brand image important.
Lisa Starita, Analyst at Gartner, advises companies how to adapt their marketing strategies during COVID-19. She states that one of the key elements for companies is to listen to customers:
The role of social media in keeping customers engaged
Social media plays a crucial role in keeping customers involved. The majority of people are turning for information, communication and social interaction as the crisis progresses.
E-commerce consultancy Wunderman Thompson shares some tips for businesses to engage with customers during COVID-19:
4. Employees become pivotal for SME survival
The UK Government launched in late March the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, also called the furlough scheme. With this scheme, employers have financial help to continue paying part of the salaries of the furloughed staff and also prevent redundancy.
The first phase of the scheme finishes at the end of June and will close completely at the end of October. According to the Treasury’s latest figures, more than 9 million British workers have been put on the scheme, at a cost of £20.8bn.
Aside from the Government’s support, companies have had to rethink the way in which they operate. One of the ways in which managers have tackled this situation is by reassigning staff to other departments.
When we asked managers and decision-makers in British SMEs if the pandemic has had an impact on staff, 60% of respondents stated that they have reassigned employees to different roles in response to COVID-19.
Not that they weren’t before, but the crisis has brought this to the top of the priorities list for businesses. Retaining employees (45%) and maintaining employee productivity (49%) are two of the main concerns for managers during the crisis.
The crisis has meant for many companies that some roles are not relevant for a time and the person needs to be allocated to another department temporarily.
For example, if the company is not hiring for a while, the recruitment department can be allocated to other departments that need staff and can help with those tasks in the interim, like administrative or customer service tasks.
Keeping employees productive is almost as important as keeping them itself. Brian Kropp, Distinguished VP, Research at Gartner, stresses the importance of taking into consideration their emotions during the pandemic:
* Survey methodology
Data for the “Software Trends” study was collected in May 2020 from an online survey of 412 employees and small and medium-sized business owners whose operations could be carried out remotely as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The survey data used for this article comes from 412 participants who qualified to answer. Among the 412 participants surveyed are 285 managers (management, senior manager, executive management and owner) who are involved in software decisions in their company as well as 127 employees without management and decision-making functions. The information in this article corresponds to the average of all surveyed participants.
Note: There were several answer options available for the graphics so that the total of the percentages exceeds 100%.