Over the past 18 months, small businesses have not only weathered the ups and downs of varying degrees of shutdown, but they have found ways to thrive. In fact, they have demonstrated remarkable resiliency and agility in adapting to their customers’ changing needs while also maintaining compliance with local rules and regulations.
The key to this has been staying up-to-date and alert to the ever-shifting situation. From local guidelines to national trends, to conversations on social media, business owners have had to listen to their various stakeholders and peers and react accordingly.
With vaccination rates climbing along with the hope for more normalcy, business owners are again faced with new challenges and new opportunities. What is the public comfortable with? Which pandemic-era trends do they want to stick around, and which are they excited to see go? How are consumers spending their time and money? What do other small businesses have planned.
DaySmart Software recently released the 2021 Small Business Report, after 1,000 U.S. consumers and 1,000 small business owners and managers this past July to discover the sentiment surrounding reopening efforts.
Some highlights include:
- 68% of consumers can’t wait to return to their favorite small businesses after the pandemic ends.
- 7 in 10 say supporting as many small businesses as they could was a top priority for them during the pandemic.
- 34% of consumers plan to spend more money on experiences, with 45% younger consumers (ages 25-40) strongly agreeing with this statement.
- 55% of small business owners say they lost sight of what they loved about their business until they were able to reopen.
- 8 in 10 owners are seeing a boom in business as people start getting back to normal.
When it comes to salons and spas:
- 48% of consumers plan on visiting hair salon more frequently, 34% plan on visiting the nail salon more frequently and 30% plan on visiting the spa more frequently. Those numbers go up with younger consumers.
What Clients Want
Meeting customer needs can be difficult when it seems like they are constantly changing. But small business owners know how to listen to their customers and responded that the most common customer request is more options to customize products or services. This is good news for small businesses who have an advantage when it comes to offering personalized services.
Online Scheduling Demand
Customers also had specific preference when it came to scheduling options. Most people wish more small businesses used online scheduling features. Online scheduling allows businesses to be “open” 24/7, meaning customers don’t have to wait for business hours to make an appointment, they can visit a business’ site and schedule at any time.
Business is Coming Back
Forty one percent of small business owners strongly agreed that they are seeing an increase in business. This is positive news for businesses that had to shut down during the pandemic, but it can certainly bring its own challenges—especially since it’s been so long since some have been tasked with managing full stores and busy schedules.
To make sure nothing falls through the cracks during this influx, owners should streamline their operational processes, such as employee scheduling, inventory and reporting. Tools to help managers stay on top of these process can ensure customers don’t head elsewhere to get the products or services they need.
Over half of businesses say they are fully booked up, so businesses need the right tools to fully take advantage of this business boom. If a business is understaffed on a day full of appointments, it risks delivering disappointing service. Even spending too much time on the phone arranging schedules takes employees away from tending to customers. The most accommodating businesses will be the most successful – meaning the ones who have the flexibility customers require and cater to their needs with the best possible service.
New Business Impacts
Over half of respondents are struggling to meet the demand for their business and make time for every customer. Small businesses could miss out on potential sales opportunities when they are too booked up to provide the highest levels of service to each customer. Small business owners may feel like they simply need more hours in the day, but it would certainly help to take a few things off their plate. By automating the scheduling process, owners won’t have to struggle to find enough space in the calendar, their software can find the best way to fit in appointments when it’s convenient for the customer and employees
Over half of respondents are struggling to meet the demand for their business and make time for every customer. Small businesses could miss out on potential sales opportunities when they are too booked up to provide the highest levels of service to each customer. Small business owners may feel like they simply need more hours in the day, but it would certainly help to take a few things off their plate. By automating the scheduling process, owners won’t have to struggle to find enough space in the calendar, their software can find the best way to fit in appointments when it’s convenient for the customer and employees.
Unlike the big business competition, small businesses don’t have expensive consultants and marketing teams. Fortunately, they don’t need them to level up their business strategy (without the high price tag.) There are tools built specifically for small businesses to accommodate their unique needs, such as payment processing and scheduling platforms. It’s important for small business owners to be aware of trends and preferred tools among their peers to stay on top of best practices that will allow them to run their business smoothly. Here are some of the key findings among small business owners.
When it comes to payment processing, most small business owners use their business management software to process payments, and only 12.4% are still only accepting cash.
This is good news since customers overwhelmingly prefer businesses who accept credit cards. If a small business is only accepting cash, they are missing out on potential customers. Businesses that do accept credit cards have an advantage: 70% of respondents said they would go out of their way to shop at those businesses.
After the Pandemic
With the wave of new business, it makes sense that owners are interested in investing in more technology to support their daily operations. This trend among small business owners may be in part due to the changes brought on by the pandemic last year. After all this time spent only shopping online, customers have new expectations and preferences, and owners have seen the benefits digital tools can offer. In the coming months, small businesses will likely aim to integrate digital experiences with their brick-and-mortar business models to combine the best of both. This way, small businesses can continue to offer personalized, relationship-based services with added convenience.
Business owners have found that some pandemic-era practices are worth maintaining into the future. With uncertainty still looming, 64% of respondents say they will still follow safety precautions such as sanitizing, social distancing and masks for employees. Forty five percent (45%) will also continue to offer virtual consultations, which follows with their decision to invest in more technology. Many small businesses like hair salons and spas offered virtual consultations during shutdown that kept their business running. Owners have likely found that customers appreciate the convenience – especially for those who don’t have the time or ability to visit in person.
To dig into more details in the study, click here to access the full report.
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.