Yell Business has released new research into how small businesses have adapted to survive in light of COVID-19 and how the pandemic is changing the way businesses and consumers communicate.
The new study reveals the scale of the challenge business owners have faced in recent months with three quarters (76%) of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) introducing a new service because of COVID-19.
The trades were found to be one of the most adaptable sectors, with 90% of tradespeople surveyed having introduced a new service. Of those new services:
- 41% started taking online bookings
- 40% started doing online video consultations
- 36% started home delivery services
- 33% online video tutorials
- 27% introduced contactless payment systems
Nearly half (46%) of tradespeople who introduced a new service said that it was crucial for them to be able to survive the pandemic. 85% stated 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 ways businesses are communicating with their customers. A massive 93% of tradespeople have introduced new ways of communicating in 2020 with instant messaging platforms coming to the fore. 26% of tradespeople have started using Facebook to communicate with customers as a result of COVID-19 and just over one in five (21%) have started using WhatsApp. 20% of trades have started using Twitter followed closely by Instagram at 15%. 14% have also implemented chatbots.
Whilst a phone call and email are still ingrained as the most popular communication methods for tradespeople and their customers alike, the most effective marketing communication tool used by tradespeople during the pandemic was found to be SMS texting. When asked whether the tool had been either ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ effective since March’s national lockdown, 58% of businesses stated that it had. WhatsApp (51%), a Facebook page (50%), paid Facebook ads (49%) and Facebook Messenger (48%) followed.
Getting the message in an instant
The emergence of instant messaging tools such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and other social messaging platforms as vital communication tools for tradespeople was identified in the research. 58% of tradespeople surveyed said that instant messaging is key for business success post COVID-19, whilst nearly half (48%) stated they had seen an uplift in enquiries thanks to using instant messaging services during the pandemic. 38% said that they had seen an uplift in repeat business and 37% saw an increase in sales.
Choosing the correct channel to communicate with customers was found to have far reaching benefits for businesses in the sector too. Yell’s research revealed that over a third (36%) of consumers would be more likely to buy from a business that communicated with them on their preferred channel. 28% of consumers would be more likely to recommend the business to a friend and 24% would be more likely to spend more with that business. Conversely, if an SME communicated with a customer on the wrong channel, 37% of consumers wouldn’t use that business again and 18% would even leave a bad review for the business.
Optimism in the face of adversity
Despite the challenges brought on by COVID-19, the trades remain positive for the future. 81% of business owners state that they are optimistic about the success of their business in 2021 and, on average, 84% said they were more prepared to deal with another lockdown.
Claire Miles, Chief Executive Officer of Yell, commented: “The last six months have been incredibly tough for tradespeople but it’s heartening to see that the majority of the sector remains optimistic in the face of adversity. Our diverse local businesses are the cornerstones of our 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 tradespeople but also their ability 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 real lifeline to businesses in the sector who have had to adapt and adjust their models quickly. Instant messaging, as we are aware from our own developments with Apple in this area, facilitates timely and conversational communication between businesses and consumers and as the findings show, many businesses will still be relying on these services to succeed post pandemic.”
For more information on the study, visit business.yell.com/sme-insight/whos-getting-the-message