SMEs swiftly going digital in the wake of COVID-19

At the COVID-19 pandemic continues to negatively affect especially small business, new research by Mastercard on the impact on their operations shows SMEs nationwide have adapted swiftly to the challenges by embracing digital commerce.

The study of 806 Australian businesses of their experiences and banking needs during the pandemic noted that 52 per cent accelerated their shift to e-Commerce sales in response to COVID-19, with 68 per cent of these businesses going online within a week and 20 per cent able to make the change within just 24 hours.

In addition, many retailers shifted from cash to contactless card and digital payments in the wake of the pandemic. Mobile wallets, in particular, saw a surge in popularity, especially with organisations with 20+ employees where that preference rose by 23 per cent. 17 per cent also said that they had started taking or will continue to take mobile wallet payments in response to the pandemic.

Other changes made by businesses as noted in the report are that 62 per cent adopting strategies to rebuild sales, with 31 per cent using discounting for existing customers and 28 per cent offering new customer discounts. 25 per cent increased their digital marketing investment while 23 per cent delivered more personalised offers for existing customers as a means of encouraging sales. Physical store operators also worked on providing a safe shopping experience for customers, with social distancing (77 per cent),

increased cleaning and disinfection processes (59 per cent) and the adoption of contactless payment methods (51 per cent) being most commonplace.

Despite these changes, major concerns remain, with brick-and-mortar retailers citing labour costs (33 per cent), rental costs (31 per cent) and increased price sensitivity from customers (27 per cent) as major challenges.

“Australian businesses have faced unprecedented challenges amid COVID-19 but have shown fierce agility and resilience, with many able to migrate operations quickly and effectively to focus on digital opportunities,” Richard Wormald, Division President – Australasia at Mastercard, said.

“Businesses have an incredible opportunity to improve the shopper experience online, and industry leaders have a part to play in helping business operators develop that expertise online, using digital payment technologies,” Wormald added.

“As consumers continue to shift toward digital payments, businesses everywhere are evolving their operations to appeal to their customers’ new preferences. It’s more important than ever that SMEs around Australia better understand and expand their digital capabilities,” Sumit Khurana, Senior Principal, Data and Services – Australia at Mastercard, said.

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