New Salesforce Research Reveals That Effective Use of Technology Will Help SMBs in India Pivot Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

30% of SMB respondents in India expect business to be as usual post the COVID-19 pandemic

Meeting customer expectations and financial management and growth are the top challenges for Indian business growth currently and in the future

Salesforce, the global leader in CRM, released its fourth edition of Small & Medium Business Trends Report capturing insights from Small and Medium Business owners and leaders worldwide. This research was conducted by The Harris Poll in two parts, with a study in March 2020 and a follow-up study in August 2020, providing insights from Small and Medium Business (SMB) owners and leaders at the beginning and in the midst of the pandemic.

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Key global findings from the report include:

  • SMBs prioritize customer safety and shift interactions. Customers are top of mind for SMBs and best poised for the future are more likely to prioritize adjustments to their services and interactions to deliver safe customer experiences. Growing SMBs, defined as having 1% or more revenue increase over the last six months, are most likely to have taken actions to change customer interactions since the pandemic took hold and also seem better poised to offer customers flexibility, such as, easier return policies and payment plans.
  • SMB optimism persists amid new challenges. In addition to pre-pandemic challenges, SMB leaders are now faced with operational restrictions, compliance mandates, and shifting customer expectations. However, SMB leaders remain optimistic about the future of their businesses. As of August 2020, 22% of SMB respondents say they are very optimistic and 50% of SMB respondents say they are somewhat optimistic about the future of their business.
  • Digital-Forward SMBs are better equipped to handle market volatility. SMBs’ use of technology has continued to increase over the years, with more than half of respondents (56%) now saying they use a customer relationship management system, a 24% increase from 2019. Even during the pandemic, SMBs are continuing to adopt new technology, with at least 1 in 5 SMB respondents reporting they’ve implemented at least one of the following technology solutions in the last six months, including email marketing software, customer service software, project task collaboration tools, or e-commerce software.
  • Growing SMB’s prepare for future crises. Many SMB leaders foresee a future that looks different than business as usual — even after the pandemic subsides. The most anticipated updates are minor, but about one-eighth of SMB respondents (13%) believe they’ll have an entirely new business structure. Not only are SMB leaders considering short-term changes, but they are preparing for future crises by adopting technology and digitizing operations. Leaders of growing SMBs are more likely to prepare for the future by digitizing three key areas: customer interactions, internal communications, and workflows.

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Insights specific to India are as below:

  • 31% of SMB respondents in India implemented a CRM solution in the last year, and 66% have an existing CRM solution.
  • Top considerations for new tech evaluation among SMB respondents in India are ease of use, trustworthiness of the vendor and impact on customer experience.
  • Meeting customer expectations is the top constraint on operations for SMB respondents in India.
  • SMB respondents in India most commonly find it challenging to bring innovative offerings to market, personalise customer engagements and keep up with demand when meeting customer expectations.
  • Financial management is the top challenge SMB respondents personally face when growing their business and maintaining financial growth is the top challenge constraining future business growth.
  • Impact of the pandemic on SMB respondents in India:
    • Reduced customer demand is the top constraint on future growth
    • Applying for financial assistance is the top consideration for the future of the business.
  • Post COVID 19
    • 30% of the SMB respondents in India expect business to be as usual and 48% believe it would be slightly modified.
    • Only 16% of SMB respondents expect an entirely new structure.

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