Thrive Analytics, a digital marketing research and customer engagement strategy consulting firm, released its latest Local Pulse Report™, highlighting key small and medium-sized small business trends. The study, conducted on 31,125 businesses over January and February, reveals that optimism is starting to improve, and business owners are looking to move past COVID-19 as quickly as possible. Most business owners in moderately affected business segments feel they will be back to pre-pandemic sales levels by the second half of this year. Harder hit segments, like hospitality and travel, feel it will be well past this year before they get back to normal. When asked about the most significant challenges their businesses face over the next few months, managing cash flow (60 percent) and getting customers back (48 percent) were among the top reasons.
“Optimism continues to improve in the small business community,” said Jason Peaslee, managing partner of Thrive Analytics. “It is still not at pre-COVID-19 levels, but as more people are vaccinated and restrictions are lifted, I expect it will continue to trend up.”
TECHNOLOGY ADOPTION WILL CONTINUE TO GET A BOOST
A third of small businesses had to adopt new technology or upgrade existing technology to operate in the COVID-19 environment. Workplace productivity (45 percent), communication (40 percent), payment processing (38 percent), and e-commerce/website upgrades (35 percent) were top areas of investment. This trend is expected to continue. Seventy percent of business owners stated they felt these new technologies were critical to their success.
Top areas for investment this year include payment processing (35 percent), sales/ordering tools (33 percent), and financial tools (28 percent).
“The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated technology adoption in the small business marketplace. It has forced 2-3 years of adoption into a few months. As we emerge from this pandemic, some things will never go completely back, and businesses will have to continue to evolve,” added Peaslee.
Thrive Analytics’ 2021 Local Pulse Report™ is a comprehensive study covering SMB outlooks, marketing budgets, technology adoption, challenges & opportunities for marketing service providers, satisfaction levels with products, and more.
Other critical findings from the 2021 Local Pulse Report™ include:
- 35 percent of business owners are still concerned about the long-term sustainability of their business.
- 65 percent of businesses have less than two months of operating cash on hand.
- 42 percent of businesses made upgrades to their websites over the past year due to COVID-19.
- 60 percent of businesses feel one of the benefits of leveraging technology is spending more time with customers.
LOCAL PULSE REPORT™ METHODOLOGY
The Local Pulse Report™ is a syndicated research program that monitors how small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are marketing their businesses, the technology they are using, their future expectations, what they want out of marketing service providers, and it explores the behaviors/trends that are influencing their decisions as business owners.
The primary waves of the research are conducted every six months. In 2020, a modified version of the surveys was conducted each month, with at least 1,000 business owners being interviewed. These modified waves were to track the impact COVID-19 pandemic.
The most recent primary wave was conducted in January-February 2021.
The full study is available to Thrive Analytics research subscribers, and a databook is available for purchase.