In 2020, Salesforce put out a Small and Medium Business Trends Report that discussed how SMBs were adapting for the pandemic. They found a few major trends when it came to SMB digital transformation. What were these changes and how will SMBs continue to adapt going forward?

SMBs relied on tech to refocus on the customer

More than 55% of those surveyed in Salesforce’s report indicated that technology was driving their customer interactions. Specifically, they were using tech solutions to facilitate better customer communication, expand the flexibility of services, and reinvent the customer journey. For example, online ordering and curbside pickup made it easier for customers to get what they needed without going into a store.

Business technologies like CRM were supporting the accelerated growth of these types of operations by digitizing customer information and triggering the right touchpoints throughout the customer journey. SMBs also leaned into email and social media messaging to communicate with customers where they felt most comfortable. A Salesforce survey from July of 2020 emphasized the importance of this type of customer communication when it found that 63% of millennial customers and 61% of Gen Z customers were more likely to support a small business that had this type of digital presence.

SMBs actually used less apps to digitize, and they want to use even fewer in the future

CRM is still a strong application for SMBs. More than half of SMBs are using it to manage customer interactions, workflows, and internal communications. However, despite this, the average number of apps these organizations are using has dropped overall. They’re looking to reduce complexity while still growing and acting on digital transformation initiatives.

SMBs leaned harder into ecommerce

Overall, the quick shift to digital transformation is paying off for SMBs. The report found that 71% of those polled survived the pandemic by going digital. A big part of that digital shift took the form of ecommerce websites. 72% of growing SMBs either added ecommerce tools in the past year or have already been using an ecommerce solution for more than 12 months. This was likely an effort to hastily implement some quick fixes, but the trend is expected to continue as these SMBs integrate those apps with other tools so they can continue scaling going forward.

So, what’s next for SMBs?

The digital transformation thrust upon them during the pandemic worked out positively for SMBs. Salesforce’s report found that 71% of them survived the pandemic because of it. That accelerated technology investment will continue in most areas for these small and medium sized businesses. They’re looking to expand customer service, sales, marketing, IT operations, and human resources using their tech investments.

SMB tech investments
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But, if they want to do all that using LESS technology, how are they planning to go about it? Here’s what’s predicted to come next for SMBs.

Doing more with less

One of the main focuses SMBs have for their future is on agility. They recognize the importance of agility to support the major shifts that came out of the pandemic: hybrid work models, interactive digital customer experiences, and the development of bespoke products and services, to name a few. Many argue that low-code and no-code solutions are offering the digital options necessary to achieve these goals without application overload.

SMB challenges
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SMBs are adopting low/no-code applications to quickly develop enterprise-level applications and digital experiences without adding more to their tech stack. These tools offer the ability to create complex workflows and user interfaces without coding knowledge, so SMBs aren’t limited by a small IT team or developers who only have limited coding experience.

Rethinking the Employee Experience

Hybrid and remote work are here to stay, with 30% of the workforce expected to remain remote after the pandemic. SMBs are looking to tech to support new ways of delivering training, coaching, and mentoring to their teams. The pandemic also put employee well-being front and center, with issues around burnout, mental health, and work-life balance coming to the forefront. SMBs are preparing to match the shifting expectations of employees to keep morale high and maintain employee retention as they cautiously increase their revenue.

Supporting a touchless customer experience

A survey by Comcast Business in 2021 found that 40% of small businesses with 25 employees or more were updating VoIP features for call control, auto attendants, voicemail to email, etc. This was a response to shopper demand for contactless customer experiences. More than 70% in the survey also said they wanted contactless payments, among other digital conveniences. Expanding those digital channels and communication access points is an ongoing project for growing SMBs.

Re-strategizing digital marketing

The task of attracting new customers and keeping existing customers happy was shifted entirely to online channels during the pandemic. This already accelerated SMBs use of ecommerce solutions, but there’s still more to do. Strategizing better website experiences, digital payment options, and digitally accessible user experiences will mean the difference between SMBs that grow and thrive, and SMBs that get left behind.  

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