The COVID-19 pandemic pushed the move to online forward at a rapid pace, as businesses were forced to close due to lockdowns and social distancing restrictions and many people turned to online shopping in order to avoid busy high streets and enclosed spaces.
For many small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) going online was vital for their survival over the past two years and also opened up new markets and presented opportunities for growth.
However, just 1 in 10 (12%) small businesses shifted to digital due to the pandemic, according to new research from Lloyds Bank Business (LLOY.L).
Around half (49%) of SMEs still have not made the move to digital and may be missing out on reaching a greater customer base.
The greatest obstacle holding businesses back from going digital are lack of skills and confidence, according to the survey of 1,518 UK businesses.
Almost two-thirds (65%) of businesses said that not having enough digital skills was their biggest challenge. Some business owners also said they did not see the benefit of being online and highlighted the fact that benefits can vary depending on the nature of the business.
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Many small business owners said they resisted moving online because they didn’t expect the pandemic lasting for as long as it has.
Having a digital offering can reap big rewards — 82% of those who have an online presence said it has helped their business grow.
Over half (55%) said going digital increased the geographic reach of their business and 47% found it helped the business to appeal to a new customer demographic.
About a third (32%) have used their online platform to diversify the services they offer.
Gareth Oakley, managing director of business banking at Lloyds Bank said: “If you’re the owner of a coffee shop or a hairdresser’s, having a digital presence might not be as important for your business, but other retail or service businesses could really expand their reach by moving online.
"That can be a daunting prospect for those yet to make the move or those who might not feel they have the necessary skills or experience. But by making the most of the tools and services available at Lloyds Bank, business owners can ensure their business thrives online in a way that’s both safe and productive.”