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Technology protects almost half of East Midlands firms during COVID-19 crisis

Technology protects almost half of East Midlands firms during COVID-19 crisis

Almost half (46%) of East Midlands microbusinesses would cease trading amid lockdown measures if it wasn’t for their ability to use digital services, according to a new report from Lloyds Bank and Be the Business.

The new 2020 Transformation With Tech research examines technology’s influence on business survival among the UK’s smallest firms during the COVID-19 crisis and highlights the digital skills and tech they now want and need for the future. It has found that, in the East Midlands, almost a quarter (23%) of microbusinesses created an online presence for the first time - as they sought to keep trading through lockdown restrictions. Of those already online, a third (33%) of small local businesses say they’ve increased their online trade since the beginning of the crisis.

One local firm that’s adapted to help them survive is Lincolnshire-based Hunts Coaches, which turned 90 on the first day of lockdown back in March. Having had to postpone celebrating this milestone in style, the father-and-son run firm enhanced its use of technology to keep customers updated online using social media.

The study also found that on top of helping companies to keep trading, a third (33%) of East Midlands microbusinesses reported cost savings as a result of their adoption of new technologies. Two in five (42%) also credit the internet and digital technologies for helping to simplify their businesses.

While more than a quarter (28%) of East Midlands microbusinesses found the volume of technology required to keep trading stressful, two in five (42%) had also received support during the crisis to adopt new technologies from initiatives including the Lloyds Bank Academy and WeAreDigital – which provide online digital skills training across the UK.

Jo Harris Lloyds Banking Group Ambassador for the Midlands, said:

“It is clear that digital adoption has been a critical to the survival, of many firms in the East Midlands, especially those that that have shifted to online ways of working for the first time during lockdown.

“But we know not every business has been able to make to that shift and it’s essential that those firms that still need help using technology get the right support. That’s why we’re running initiatives like the Lloyds Bank Academy, which offers free training courses in areas including marketing through social media, managing money, and working safely and securely online. Working together we can build these essential digital capabilities across the region’s business network and enable firms to get ahead as we continue on the path to recovery.”

Levelling up tech capabilities

Across the UK, the number of businesses prioritising digital investment has doubled over the course of the pandemic. Two in five (42%) East Midlands microbusinesses are now investing in digital systems, technology and skills. Many reported using digital tools and services for the first time, such as virtual meetings (18%), social media (11%), ecommerce (11%), and online financial management (10%) to keep their companies up and running. Nationally, those who were already utilising these online tools pre-pandemic are using them much more (33%) virtual meetings, (27%) ecommerce, (31%) social media and (21%) financial planning.

Nationally, at least two-thirds (66%) of those who have started using various digital services say they will continue to do so in the future. The online tools that are most likely to be continued to be used are social media (83%), online banking (83%) and virtual meetings (78%). The back office has also seen a much-needed overhaul – one in ten businesses have started using cloud software and 12% are now using analytics capabilities to better understand their customers.

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