Since March, small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 crisis, but they're more prepared for a second wave, according to a report.
Comcast Business conducted a survey in August to take the pulse of SMBs as the coronavirus flares and subsides across the U.S. One-in-five (21%) businesses believed they had returned to normal operations while more than half (53%) said it would take six months to a year and another 23% felt it would take more than a year to return to normal.
On the plus side, 87% of the SMB owners felt they were ore prepared for the future in general while 79% considered themselves more tech savvy than ever before.
"Mom-and-pop" businesses were hit particularly hard by shelter-in-place policies during the onset of Covid-19, with many unable to re-open once they were allowed to. In addition to not being able to have customers in their businesses, Comcast Business' Christian Nascimento, vice president of product management and strategy, said they were also not as prepared as larger organizations on implementing virtual strategies.
"We're certainly seeing increased optimism from SMB customers," Nascimento said. "We're also seeing businesses doing different things, and they're trying to make up for it."
Businesses have innovated their connectivity by placing Wi-Fi access points closer to doors so customers can access their internet services without entering. Nascimento said fitness centers and yoga instructors are now using Zoom conferences to broadcast their lessons and reach customers.
"I think that generally SMBs have kind of rallied and rebounded a bit and kind of adapted using new technology," Nascimento said. "And I think now that as things have kind of flattened a bit that we do see some of that coming back. Businesses took a look at the types of broadband and connectivity that they had to make sure that they were sufficient to support the new way that they would be doing business.
"They found additional applications, or new applications, to ride on that broadband network that can help them do business, whether it was Zoom calls or online collaboration. Whether it was just new ways to take orders or whether it was Wi-Fi enabled POS (point of sales) systems."
The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation of businesses across the spectrum. Without Covid-19, 31% of the companies said they would have never implemented the technologies that they did, with 23% projecting it would have taken them one to three years to implement the changes. Going forward, the SMBs that have become more digital-centric feel better prepared.
When asked about the resources they relied on to adapt to the “new normal,” 43% of SMB owners turned to no one, 29% depended on business partners and 22% relied upon industry peers.
Though various technology companies introduced free solutions and offerings for small businesses, 82%, surprisingly, did not take advantage of such opportunities.
While SMB owners have become more inventive, they're still not taking full advantage of the available resources, experts and services that could help them navigate the current environment, rethink their strategies, and eliminate unnecessary expenses, according to Comcast Business' survey and report.
While SMB owners have adjusted to Covid-19 on the tech side, 65% said they were still stressed out in August while 68% responded that they were losing at least one hour of sleep each night.
Nascimento said Comcast Business launched Comcast Business at Home to offer remote workers enterprise-grade broadband connectivity during the pandemic. Comcast Business At Home offers enterprise-grade internet connectivity and better security for remote employees, all of which is separate from the residential broadband tiers.
Comcast Business will launch additional products on top of Comcast Business at Home in order to better connect remote workers to their corporate infrastructures, according to Nascimento.
"I think the hallmark of a small business owner is that they're scrappy, that they adapt, and they kind of make do with what happens," Nascimento said. "That's what happened here. I think that they found new ways to use the internet to run their businesses and applications."
For the survey, Comcast Business contacted SMB owners, presidents, and CEOs to ask them about how their business had been impacted by COVID-19, how they are currently managing their business, and associated recovery plan. The survey was conducted online, and 594 respondents were collected between August 18 and August 23.