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90% of UK SME retailers have pivoted to digital, while consumers demand hybrid approach, studies show

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Almost all UK SME retailers have permanently transformed the way they interact with their customers, with 9 out of 10 introducing new digital services. Additionally, four out of five (82%) businesses say that retailers without an online presence are unlikely to survive in the future.

Research by Opayo and its partner Discover Global Network, shows that UK SMEs are offering new services such as: establishing an online shop (67%); home delivery options (62%); or click and collect capabilities (35%). Additionally, 77% of SMEs now sell directly to consumers via social media platforms such as Facebook, TikTok or Instagram, compared to just 41% before the pandemic. 

Additionally, 82% of SMEs believe that online is where the majority of sales will come from in the future.

Meanwhile, payment company Elavon’s consumer survey of more than 1100 respondents in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, conducted by Ipsos MORI, underscores that offering a convenient ecommerce experience is crucial to attracting customers and generating loyalty.

According to its data, UK consumers prioritise a number of factors when deciding where to spend online, with 96% demanding a clear and accurate product description and 95% looking to easily find what they are looking for, clear and accurate photography and a competitive price. A further 94% want the ability to pay without filling in forms and fast and convenient delivery.

However, the shift to ecommerce doesn’t mean the end of the High Street. Nine out of ten UK consumers indicate they want to support their local businesses. Additionally, three quarters of businesses (73%) say they will continue to have a physical location to service customers. 

Commenting on the findings of the group’s three-pronged research push, Sean Wilson, Managing Director, at Opayo says:  “Our research highlights that it’s not solely larger companies focusing on digital growth. SMEs pivoted during the pandemic by shifting their focus to eCommerce, social media channels and home delivery services to generate sales and loyalty. While a physical presence remains important for many retailers, SMEs are successfully combining in-store and online sales channels and payment options to be more customer centric and for long-term resilience.”

Isaac Scott, the Brand & Marketing Director of Seven Districts Coffee, based in Leeds, illustrated how he innovated and adapted his business to best focus on the customer experience: “Having an online presence is as important as having a physical presence. We want both parts of the business to feel like an experience. Seeing a roaster roasting coffee is an experience. Online, part of the subscription model that we are launching involves sending books with our coffee. Enjoying coffee takes loads of different experiences, not just one.”

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