Small businesses key to shaping our communities

A new study reveals the affection of consumers for the small-business sector and its contribution to Australia’s way of life. The Next Chapter for Small Business report, commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of small-business platform Xero, found 87 per cent of Australian consumers say that small businesses played an active role in shaping the culture of their local communities. That figure is higher than the global average of 81 per cent.

The study surveyed more than 1000 small-business owners and 1000 small-business customers evenly divided across Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, the UK, the US and Canada, researching how small businesses in key markets around the world have fared in the wake of COVID-19.

Globally, 69 per cent of consumers say they feel proud of the businesses in their communities and would feel a personal loss if those businesses were to close. Moreover, 39 per cent of consumers revealed that they purchase from small businesses to contribute to their community and support the local economy and local jobs. It also found that 85 per cent of Australian consumers agreed that small businesses were essential to the global economy, also higher than the 75 per cent global average.

“Small businesses have long been the beating heart of communities in Australia. This has never been more apparent than in recent times,” Trent Innes, Managing Director at Xero Australia and Asia, said.

“The resilience of the small-business sector has shone through this year, and it has been matched by a willingness and determination of communities to get behind them,” Innes added. “As we chart a path to economic recovery, the resurgence of the small business sector will depend upon the same commitment from communities to champion their success.”

The study also noted that Australian small businesses acknowledge how closely they are tied to the communities around them, with 70 per cent agreeing that small businesses play an active role in shaping the culture of their local community, with the global average at 69 per cent.

The pandemic has also shifted consumers’ expectations of small businesses, with increasing importance placed on empathy. The study noted that 93 per cent of consumers would trust a business, buy more, and recommend it to friends and family if it demonstrated empathy toward them, other customers and the community. This could potentially include implementing special rules to protect customers’ health during COVID-19, staying open longer, and offering delivery options.

“It is a critical time for small businesses around the world to focus on a few areas to improve their ability to survive,” Rachael Powell, Chief Customer Officer at Xero, said. “This research reveals the unique role they play in our communities as well as the variety of ways in which they can build resilience. How these small businesses expand their capabilities, communicate with customers, adopt new technologies and get support will define their success while we continue to navigate with this pandemic.”

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