Report from national association reveals changes and challenges based on the type of business
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to restrict Canada’s small businesses, independent entrepreneurs are being resilient and adapting to the new reality in various ways. And according to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, one significant trend will continue well into next year.
In its latest industry report, CFIB said 41% of small businesses have had to reduce in-person communication with their customers, with 6% saying they’ve totally stopped meeting with their customers.
The top communication platform newly adopted by businesses during the outbreak is video conferencing (15%). Email saw the greatest surge in total use, with 46% of respondents saying they’ve increased their usage and 2% saying they’ve started using email since the inception of the pandemic.
However, phones emerged as the most-used communication channel, with 95% of responding business owners saying they use it to connect with their customers.
Half of the participants in the survey (51%) also predicted that they’ll be much more reliant on digital communications over the coming year. The types of communication channels used won’t be exactly the same across businesses, as the survey found customer-specific differences in the types of communication channels businesses pivoted toward.
Those operating in the business-to-business (B2B) space were most likely to have started or increased their use of video conferencing software, as more than 60% of those in finance, insurance & real estate, and professional services said they’ve started or stepped up their use of video conferencing. Around three tenths of those respondents also reported starting or increasing their use of app-based messaging, making them most likely to watch their phones for incoming customer messages.
Meanwhile, business-to-consumer (B2C) operators were more likely to have turned to messaging functions on social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram. Four in five (78%) of small B2C businesses are now connecting with their customers using social networking platforms, as opposed to half (53%) of B2B businesses.
But it hasn’t been all smooth sailing. According to the survey, 46% of business owners are overwhelmed with trying to keep track of too many digital communication channels. On top of that, 38% of small-business owners surveyed said they forget to check for messages on digital platforms.
“The rapid shift to digital communication has meant the difference between surviving and closing down entirely for some businesses, for example enabling customers to order curbside pickup over email or find new businesses over Instagram,” said Mandy D'Autremont, senior director, Member Experience and Strategy at CFIB. “Now, as we are seeing the start of a second wave in parts of the country, digital communication is going to continue being an essential tool for many businesses.”