Massive shift to online trading ‘has helped small firms survive’

A Lloyds report shows microbusinesses in the East of England have embraced online trading - many for the first time - as a...

A Lloyds report shows microbusinesses in the East of England have embraced online trading - many for the first time - as a means of survival Picture: WILLIAM POTTER/GETTY IMAGES - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Around half of microbusinesses in the East of England have been shielded from the worst financial effects of the coronavirus pandemic by shifting to digital, according to a survey.

A Lloyds Bank and Be the Business report found that 50% of them would have ceased trading without it, with almost a quarter (23%) moving online for the first time during the crisis.

The study looked at the influence of technology on business survival among the UK’s smallest firms during the pandemic.

MORE — East Anglia set to be ‘central’ to poultry and food processing giant’s growth plansIt found that of those already online, a third (34%) of said they had increased their online trade since the beginning of the crisis.

As well as helping companies to keep trading, more than a third (35%) reported cost savings as a result of their adoption of new technologies. One in two (50%) also credit the internet and digital technologies for helping to simplify their businesses.

However, more than a quarter (27%) of the region’s microbusinesses found the volume of technology required to keep trading stressful.

More than a third (36%) sought and received support during the crisis to adopt new technologies from digital skills training initiatives including the Lloyds Bank Academy and WeAreDigital.

Half (50%) of the East of England’s microbusinesses would have ceased trading during the pandemic without a shift to digital, the report found.

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Matt Hubbard, Lloyds Banking Group’s Ambassador for the East of England, said the pandemic had revealed that digital capabilities are “critical” to survival, and provided a lifeline to many firms who were able to continue trading by shifting their operations online.

“Many firms in the east have successfully adapted in the current climate, pivoting their models to cater for new trends and demands.

“But there’s clearly a significant proportion of small businesses yet to make the shift online and as significant contributors to the region’s prosperity, we urge them to make use of the tools and guidance available,” he said.

More than four in 10 (42%) of microbusinesses in the east are now investing in digital systems, technology and skills, according to the report compilers.