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The Covid-19 pandemic made online purchases increase and drove customers to use different channels to find products and services. For the UK’s small and medium-sized businesses, this meant having to implement new digital strategies to grow their online presence, while competing with the bigger fish on the market.

Capterra UK conducted two surveys on nearly 300 professionals from SMEs to find out how companies have developed their digital presence since the pandemic, and what digital investment plans are in the pipeline.

According to the first survey, one in five businesses (23%) did not have a digital strategy before Covid-19 but had to define and implement one as a result of the pandemic. For more than half of companies, Covid-19 accelerated their digital transformation processes because their initial digital strategies were not sufficient.

Covid-19 accelerated digital strategies, but most SMEs say it was worth it
Despite challenges brought on by the pandemic, the majority (56%) of the surveyed respondents thought that their company would have been worse off or even not exist today had they not carried through with digital initiatives. That said, nearly two-thirds (64%) of respondents found it extremely or somewhat difficult for their company to implement its digital strategy.

In fact, a combined total of 55% said they recruited new employees (36% hired more people and 19% hired and fired staff) to help them carry out the digital migration, with 58% identifying Digital Marketing Specialists as the top recruited role. However, while some have new recruits, 19% of SMEs still have somebody in charge of digital strategies who is not an expert in the field.

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Omnichannel strategies are being used to meet customer demands
According to 38% of the respondents, the top reason for the companies’ digital transformation was to respond to customer demands, with over half (51%) saying customer service support tools, including customer relationship management (CRM) and chatbots, are focal points that needed improving.

In particular, with more people working from home and using multiple devices, Covid-19 accelerated the deployment of omnichannel strategies to cater to users: While 31% of businesses had these strategies in place before Covid-19, the number rose to 37% during the pandemic.

SMEs’ investment in Email Marketing and Data Collection will be key to success
Capterra UK’s second survey shows that while many businesses invested in digital strategies to adjust to the changes brought upon by the pandemic, most UK SMEs will maintain (46%) or increase (50%) these investments for at least the next two years, with 55% saying the strategy is working well and that more investment means more revenue.

According to 35% of the respondents, the main reason new digital strategies help businesses is that it increases sales opportunities by reaching new people from different channels. It is therefore no surprise that for 91% of businesses, email marketing is an important element of their digital strategies (39% say it is somewhat important and 52% say it is very important), followed by Data Collection (90%).

Big companies are competition for SMEs but are also beneficial
Nearly three-quarters (72%) of the surveyed professionals somewhat or strongly agreed that “big companies are more favoured than SMEs in the digital age”, which may explain why a quarter (26%) of respondents said their company adopted a digital strategy to keep up with competitors.

Although this may be the case, others are leveraging the benefits: The results show that 15% of SMEs see the existence of big companies as beneficial to their company, with 42% of this group saying that they observe and learn from the way big companies work.

By Alice Cumming

Source: Business Lender

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