During lockdown, digital tools have provided a safety net for small businesses. Most European Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have been forced to close physical premises, furloughing staff or (if they are able) moving online, offering services via websites, or through takeaways and deliveries. Some have joined platforms (such as food delivery platforms) that offer them technological solutions and put them in touch with customers remotely.
In fact, the OECD argues that online platforms will be central to the digital transformation of SMEs, increasing customer bases and enabling small businesses in particular to “reach scale without mass”. However, at the same time, they caution that “online platforms can also raise risks related to competition distortions, reputational damage, and digital security or lock-ins, especially for SMEs”.
Will SMEs stay digital? Once SMEs have taken their first steps in the digital world, are they going to continue using digital tools once the pandemic has (eventually) abated? Will customers prefer to keep buying from SMEs digitally after lockdown? Or will they want to get back to brick-and-mortar shopping as soon as possible?
Want to learn more about how European businesses have been using technology to respond to challenges posed by the pandemic? Check out our infographic below (click for a bigger version):
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in by Piotr, who says: “Technology can definitely provide a much needed lifeline to many businesses. Just look at the number of shops that have moved their operations online. Apps like Uber Eats and Deliveroo have enabled several restaurants to keep their heads above the surface.”
Has the pandemic pushed SMEs to go digital? And (just as importantly) will they stay digital once social distancing rules have been relaxed? To get a response, we put Piotr’s comment to Valeria Valotto, Head of Public Affairs and Fundraising at Progetto Quid, an Italian SME specialising in sustainable and ethical clothing and accessories. How would she respond?
For another perspective, we also spoke to Selin Song, Vice President of EMEA Google Customer Solutions at Google. How would she respond?
We also put Piotr’s comment to Jake Ward, President of the Connected Commerce Council (3C), a membership organisation for small businesses powered by digital (which has recently published a report on digital providing a safety net for small businesses during the pandemic).
Next, we had a more critical comment from Jurre, who says “Technology isn’t going to save most SMEs. Either support them financially through the crisis or establish an SME investment fund to restart business after the crisis is over.”
To get a response, we put Jurre’s comment to Carlos Zorrinho, a Portuguese MEP who sits with the Socialists and Democrats group in the European Parliament, and a member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy. How would he respond to Jurre?
Has the pandemic pushed European SMEs to go digital? Can technology help support small businesses through the crisis? Will they stay digital once the pandemic is over? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers for their reactions!
Image Credits: BigStock – (c) vichie81
Editorially independent content supported by: Google. See our FAQ for more details.