The last year has been incredibly tough for small businesses, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. Sectors that have been hardest hit – like retail and hospitality – have started cautiously reopening. It’s been great to see businesses open their doors and our high streets starting to come back to life.
For some time now the narrative has been about what small businesses can’t do. It’s still a challenging environment, but instead we need to be talking about what they can do. The UK’s 5.9 million strong small business community will sit at the heart of our economic recovery.
That’s why we’ve teamed up with Square to share tips for businesses as restrictions continue to lift and spoke to a small business in our community about how they’re adapting.
Looking to a brighter future
The advantage small firms have over corporates is a growing depth of loyalty built up during the pandemic – Xero research shows that 52% of consumers plan to support SMEs more now. With £18.5bn of accumulated household savings in January alone, the UK is entering a dramatic period of spending.
But small businesses need to make sure they have the right technology in place to capitalise on this post-pandemic spending boom. The pandemic led to ten years of innovation and tech adoption taking place in just 90 days. Digital tools are changing the game – helping firms streamline processes, sell and operate online, adjust to changing consumer needs, and freeing them up to focus on building relationships with customers.
How are small businesses finding the transition?
Sidonie Warren – owner and founder of stationary brand, Papersmiths – has just reopened all three of her stores. “Our team is back, the stores are buzzing and pretty much everyone who walks through the door is excited to visit their favourite shops again. Customers are commenting on how great it is, after months of purchasing their supplies online, to see the stationery in real life.”
She believes that in-person interactions and customer experience are still crucial following the pandemic. “It’s reaffirmed our belief that our bricks and mortar shop fronts enhance the customer experience and make our jobs even more rewarding. Tech has been key in helping us adapt to reopening – for example, using tech to identify what our stock needs are in each location so we can move it between our bricks and mortar and online outlets.”
To help small businesses make the most of the economy reopening, we’ve collated tips from experts at Xero and Square. Here’s what they had to say:
Nicholas Harris, Head of Partnerships, UK at Square:
- Accept contactless payments: Now more than ever it’s important to be able to accept contactless payments such as contactless cards, Apple Pay and Google Pay in order to reduce physical contact. If you’re not already using a card machine, think about using Square Reader or Square Terminal to accept contactless payments.
- Offer more than one way for customers to buy: Make sure you can take payments wherever you sell. If you want customers to order directly on Instagram or over text message, you could set up a quick online checkout link. Or if you want customers to call in orders for in-store and curbside pickup, you need to know how to accept credit card payments over the phone or have the right tools to start accepting invoices remotely. You can take payments any way you want, in-person or online, with tech like Square Payments.
- Make it easy to buy in advance: Start looking into forecasting customer demand for certain products and how customers plan to pay for those products. Plan ahead by allowing customers to order in advance from your online store or by booking an appointment to redeem a service or visit at a later date. Analyse online shopping behaviours and set up an operational plan for your online business to save you time and headaches.
Donna Torres, director of small business at Xero:
- Harness the right digital tools and apps: Apps and connected tech have been a lifeline for businesses. Our data shows that SMEs who used apps to help manage their business before COVID-19 saw a 12 percent smaller revenue decline than those who didn’t. There are over 800 apps within our ecosystem that connect to Xero – from seamless POS apps like Square to inventory management tools like Vend, they’re all geared towards making life easier for business owners.
- Build on renewed loyalty: Half of consumers (49%) now feel greater loyalty towards local businesses over bigger firms. This gives small businesses an opportunity to connect with customers in a way corporates will struggle to replicate. Focus on tailor-made experiences, face-to-face interaction and areas like sustainability and community that customers are increasingly drawn to
- Keep on top of cash flow: As hospitality and retail businesses reopen, having a clear view of cash flow and regularly forecasting is crucial to making informed decisions, planning for recovery and factoring in changes to support schemes like furlough. To find out more on how to monitor your cash flow and build a robust forecast, take the Xero cash flow digital learning experience.
Get back to business with Xero
Visit Xero’s dedicated site for more resources, webinars and inspirational stories to help you emerge stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic.