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How Technology Provides Small Businesses a Lifeline and an Opportunity

Tom Sullivan

Vice President, Small Business Policy, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

America benefits from small businesses as job creators, innovators, and community leaders. Data show that small employers have historically created two-thirds of net new jobs and churn out patent-worthy innovations at 12-16 times the rate of their larger business counterparts. 

In addition to providing economic strength, the terms “small business” and “community” seem synonymous. The same entrepreneurs who are founders, shopkeepers, and restaurateurs are active in their communities. They lead PTAs and town councils, and volunteer on the boards of their local chambers of commerce. 

In the midst of the pandemic, a survey by MetLife and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce showed that two-thirds of small business owners volunteered to help others in need. They donated to food banks or response funds. Even in the toughest times, small businesses still found ways to help their communities; by converting operations for sanitizer or mask production, and by volunteering to help neighbors. 

Evolving tech

Throughout the turmoil of 2020, technology evolved from a luxury to a necessity for small businesses. From tracking early COVID-19 cases and shutdowns, to contactless sales and submitting PPP applications, technology kept small businesses going. 

Connecting with customers through Zoom calls, Tik Tok videos, and even crowdfunding campaigns were no longer extra tasks for a Saturday morning. Instead, small businesses rapidly adopted technology solutions to overcome potentially unsafe one-on-one contact with customers. According to McKinsey, 10 years of e-commerce adoption happened in three months. 

Some small businesses viewed the pandemic as a catalyst to develop an online sales presence. Ecommerce strategies quickly moved from the back burner to front and center last spring and summer. As a result, sites like Shopify, used to quickly set up ecommerce shops, experienced more than a 75 percent increase in November sales.

While small business owners were eager to bid 2020 good riddance, their increased use of and reliance on technology are here to stay. Here are three ways small business owners utilized technology throughout the pandemic and how it remains relevant:

1 .Creating and improving an online presence 

In 2020, over 2 billion people bought a product or service online, likely a trend that will continue. Technology provides a sea of opportunity for determining which ecommerce platform to use, increasing digital traffic and building your online brand and followers, who become customers. 

Small businesses used the pandemic and social distancing requirements to capitalize on an opportunity. Customers are now used to this type of service, and businesses will need to improve and continue building their online presence. 

2. Helping with workforce hiring and training 

Businesses are having a difficult time finding qualified and willing employees to fill the jobs needed for Main Street to come roaring back. From finding good employees to communicating to helping bolster mental and physical health, technology will play a huge role and will help small businesses weather a workforce shortage crisis. 

Technology like artificial intelligence can increase efficiency and effectiveness of sourcing, recruiting, hiring, and onboarding workers.

3. Investing in business operations 

Businesses need to invest in both software, such as platforms for collaboration and hardware, like phones or video cameras. This ensures they are making the most of technology, and shifting from short-term solutions to a long-term system. Therefore, they will be able to continue to keep business running smoothly and securely. 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Digital Platform, called “CO,” is a good place to start for small businesses considering the adoption of technology.

The devastation wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic on Main Street placed every aspect of small business in jeopardy. Having a handle on technology solutions that helped them survive will bring about a bright future for small businesses, their employees, and their communities.

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