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Yell has released new research into how small businesses have adapted to survive in light of Covid-19, revealing optimism amongst Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic.

The report found that 65% of small business owners were optimistic about the success of their business for the remainder of 2020. This rose to almost three in four (71%) when looking towards 2021.

The study from Yell also assessed optimism amongst business owners across different regions of the UK.

Regions where SME owners are the most optimistic for 2021:

  1. East of England – 89% of SME owners optimistic
  2. Greater London – 76%
  3. Northern Ireland – 74%
  4. Scotland – 74%
  5. South East – 70%
  6. West Midlands – 70%

Despite this optimism, the study reveals the scale of the challenge business owners have faced in 2020, with three quarters (76%) of SMEs introducing a new service as a result of Covid-19. Of those SMEs introducing new services:

  • 34% started doing online video consultations or viewings
  • 32% have started taking online bookings
  • 25% introduced contactless payment systems
  • 25% started home delivery services

The regions which have adapted the most during the pandemic:

  1. Greater London – 85% of SMEs have introduced new services
  2. East of England – 84%
  3. Scotland – 82%
  4. North East – 81%
  5. Northern Ireland – 79%

Over half (52%) of businesses who introduced a new service said it was crucial for them to be able to survive the pandemic, with 88% of businesses stating they plan on continuing the service post Covid-19.

Who’s getting the message?

The research also identified how the global pandemic has accelerated changes in the way businesses are communicating with their customers, with over three quarters (76%) of SMEs having introduced new ways of communicating in 2020.

The emergence of instant messaging tools such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and other social messaging platforms as vital communication tools for businesses was identified in the research, with the benefits of using such tools fuelling optimism amongst business owners.

Over half (53%) of SMEs surveyed said that instant messaging is key for business success post Covid-19, whilst 39% stated they had seen an uplift in enquiries thanks to using instant messaging services during the pandemic. 38% said that they had seen increased customer satisfaction and 33% saw an uplift in repeat business.

Claire Miles, Chief Executive Officer of Yell commented:

It has undoubtedly been an incredibly tough year for small businesses across the country but it’s heartening to see that the majority of SMEs remain optimistic in the face of adversity. Our diverse local businesses are the cornerstones of community, which is why it’s crucial that now, more than ever, Yell continues to champion small businesses and provide the digital tools and insights needed for them to thrive.

Our research highlights not only the sheer adaptability of SMEs but also their determination to find the right way to communicate change to their existing and potential customers. It’s clear that during these uncertain times, instant messaging services have been a lifeline to businesses who have had to adapt and adjust their models quickly. Instant messaging facilitates timely and conversational communication between businesses and consumers and as the findings show, many SMEs will still be relying on these services to succeed post pandemic.

To access further stats from the study and get tips and advice from Yell on how to communicate effectively with customers, please visit our campaign page.