Digital tools drove business growth during pandemic, but only for those who know how to use them

by | May 5, 2021

A gap is beginning to form between digitally advanced small businesses, and business owners who struggle to understand or take advantage of powerful digital toolsets for marketing, customer engagement, and optimization. A new report published by the Connected Commerce Council (3C) found that digitally uncertain businesses are seeing their more advanced counterparts achieve greater success. Digitally advanced businesses earned twice as much revenue and hired twice the number of employees during the COVID-19 pandemic than their less adept counterparts.

“The Digital Safety Net saved millions of small businesses and softened the blow for millions more during the pandemic,” said Jake Ward, President of the Connected Commerce Council. “Social media, digital advertising, financial and operational management, and online marketplaces all give Digitally Advanced businesses a leg up. As businesses and the economy look toward recovery, we should work to stop Digitally Uncertain businesses from falling further behind and through the Digital Safety Net.”

One such “digitally advanced” Florida business, Touchland, a hand-sanitizer brand based out of Miami, says during the pandemic, the company leaned on digital and social platforms to connect consumers with their products.

According to Touchland founder and CEO Andrea Lisbona, her company saw over 1,200 percent growth in 2020 and struggled to keep up with production. They moved to a pre-order model to better manage demand, using Google Analytics and Google Ads to stay in step with customer demand and began donating five percent of all production to healthcare workers.

“Looking forward, we’re excited to lead with our brand in [ad] creatives and display search campaigns, use technology to sustain our growth and production, and connect more with our customers,” said Touchland’s Head of Growth, Ned MacPherson.

Touchland’s success is reflected in 3C’s report, Digitally Driven: 2021, found that 82 percent of advanced businesses credited digital tools with helping them succeed during the pandemic, compared to only 26% of digitally uncertain businesses. Also, the report found nearly 97 percent of advanced small businesses adopted new digital tools during the pandemic compared to 51 percent of uncertain small businesses.

Among the reports more signficant findings, advanced businesses saw five times the retention of existing customers and 20 times better acquisition of new customers compared to uncertain businesses, while digitally adept businesses are more optimistic about the future. The report found 88 percent are confident they will make new hires in 2021 compared with only 36 percent of digitally uncertain businesses.

Equally important is why digitally uncertain small businesses struggle to adopt new digital tools that could help their bottom line. Cost concerns and lack of knowledge are among the top reasons for not embracing digital tools, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

“Digital tools are affordable, secure, and scalable. Ensuring small businesses can access digital tools is the secret ingredient to their success,” Ward said. “Policymakers must work hand-in-hand with private industry and educational institutions to make access to digital tools training easier and empower small business’ future success.”

The Connected Commerce Council is a non-profit membership organization that aims to promote small business access to digital technologies and tools. The organization provides small businesses with access to the market’s most effective digital tools available, and provides coaching to optimize growth and efficiency. The study was conducted by Greenberg in partnership with 3C and Google.



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