5:00 AM 23rd November 2020
Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash
More than half (52%) of Yorkshire and the Humber’s microbusinesses would cease trading amid lockdown measures if it wasn’t for their ability to use digital services, according to a new report from Lloyds Bank and Be the Business.
More than half (52%) Yorkshire and the Humber’s microbusinesses would have ceased trading during the pandemic without a shift to digital
Crisis takes a quarter (25%) of Yorkshire and the Humber micro firms online for the first time
Leeds-based café digitises business to offer at home dining
The new 2020 Transformation With Tech research examines technology’s influence on business survival among the UK’s smallest firms during the COVID-19 crisis and highlights the digital skills and tech they now want and need for the future. It has found that in Yorkshire and the Humber, a quarter (25%) of microbusinesses created an online presence for the first time – as they sought to keep trading through lockdown restrictions.
“Embracing technology can be essential for the survival of many businesses, especially those reliant on face-to-face consumer interactions.”
Of those already online, four in ten (41%) of small local businesses say they’ve increased their online trade since the beginning of the crisis.
One local firm that’s adapted to help them survive is Leeds-based Nosh @ No1, a café serving hot and cold foods and beverages to customers. Previously, the firm never considered digital as part of its business plan, favouring cash payments and minimal social media activity. When lockdown hit, the café, which was deemed as an essential business, was forced to reinvent itself in order to survive.
Taking advantage of the rise in people working from home and looking for new delivery options, the business launched afternoon tea and bread boxes, promoting the new offering on Facebook. Thanks to likes and shares on the social media platform, the business saw an increase in demand, and introduced online orders via a new card payment system. Lyndon, owner of Nosh @ No1, will continue exploring digital adaptations for his business to attract fresh business and customers. He is already planning online promotional deals and diversifying into corporate catering.
Lyndon said: “I would never have dreamed of taking card payments. It’s hard to quantify but maybe I would be 20 or 25% down if I hadn’t used this. To be honest I should have done it years ago for the amount of business it actually brings in.”
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash
The study also found that on top of helping companies to keep trading, around a third (31%) of Yorkshire and the Humber’s microbusinesses reported cost savings as a result of their adoption of new technologies. Almost half (45%) also credit the internet and digital technologies for helping to simplify their businesses
While more than a third (34%) of Yorkshire and the Humber’s microbusinesses found the volume of technology required to keep trading stressful, nearly four in ten (37%) had also received support during the crisis to adopt new technologies from initiatives including the Lloyds Bank Academy and WeAreDigital – which provide online digital skills training across the UK.
Catherine Rutter, Lloyds Banking Group Ambassador for Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “Nosh @ No1 is just one example of a firm with a traditional business model that due to the pandemic, needed to make changes quickly in order to serve its consumer base.
“By introducing digital processes like card payments and online promotions, Nosh @ No1, like many other firms, was able to create new opportunities during what has been a tough year. Embracing technology can be essential for the survival of many businesses, especially those reliant on face-to-face consumer interactions.
“Since 2019, our Lloyds Bank Academy has helped more than 65,000 people across the UK in charities and businesses develop their digital knowledge. We are now committed to continuing this support and will work closely with firms across Yorkshire and the Humber as we head towards recovery.”
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash
Levelling up tech capabilities
Across the UK, the number of businesses prioritising digital investment has doubled over the course of the pandemic. Almost half (46%) of Yorkshire and the Humber microbusinesses are now investing in digital systems, technology and skills. Many reported using digital tools and services for the first time, such as virtual meetings (20%), social media (13%), ecommerce (13%), and online financial management (9%) to keep their companies up and running. Nationally, those who were already utilising these online tools pre-pandemic are using them much more (33%) virtual meetings, (27%) ecommerce, (31%) social media and (21%) financial planning.
Nationally, at least two-thirds (66%) of those who have started using various digital services say they will continue to do so in the future. The online tools that are most likely to be continued to be used are social media (83%), online banking (83%) and virtual meetings (78%). The back office has also seen a much-needed overhaul – one in ten businesses have started using cloud software and 12% are now using analytics capabilities to better understand their customers.