Covid-19 forces micro-businesses to innovate during the lockdown

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GoDaddy has released data from a new survey, which reveals one-in-five micro-businesses (those with under 9 employees) have set up an online presence for the first time.

A further 45 per cent have utilized social media in a new way and nearly half have improved their online capabilities, as businesses move to digital and delivery to continue selling products and services to their customers.

The changes made so far look like being here to stay, as a significant majority of micro-businesses asked would keep the innovations they have initiated. Three quarters say they will continue using their new online presence after lockdown is over and two thirds will keep the alterations they have made to products and services.

Business innovation

Many of these changes have taken place in just four weeks, in order to adapt to the lockdown. Rye-based GoDaddy customer Knoops produce chocolate drinks and had just opened their first London store in Clapham Junction, with plans for a second London site opening in the summer. To innovate they have launched a new range of chocolate products online, as well as a hot chocolate machine called ‘The Knoopifer’ for customers to enjoy their beverages at home.

“Times are tough for everyone, including small, growing businesses like ours," noted Anna Chapman at Knoops. "Like many others, we’ve had to innovate to stay relevant, with a particular focus on new products and services online so that people can enjoy Knoops in the comfort of their own home.

 “Obviously we understand that the lockdown must be respected for as long as is felt necessary and we’re getting used to working from home and not seeing our customers face-to-face. We can’t wait to open again, and get back to work on our next store openings, and we’ll certainly maintain this focus on our online offering long-term, long after we start to come out of lockdown.”

Their resilience is being helped by a significant shift in consumer attitude. A majority of consumers, some 63% say they are more likely to shop at small, local micro-businesses to help them financially during the pandemic and, of these, 67% said they will continue to do so even after the lockdown ends.

This digital resiliency comes in the context of challenging circumstances, with a third of business owners suggesting that if there was to be another two months of lockdown, they would expect a 50% drop in sales, and 38 per cent would be pushed into greater debt.

Irana Wasti, GoDaddy Regional President for EMEA said: “The pandemic has put extraordinary demands on the 5.6 million micro-businesses in the UK. They are vital to our economy and we have seen how resilient and determined entrepreneurs are to get through this. For micro-businesses, it has meant nothing short of the second digital revolution, with a fifth moving their business online for the first time.

The outbreak is accelerating change that GoDaddy has seen with micro-businesses for a long time, with a move to online and e-commerce products and services. “We want to support our customers through this testing time and that’s why we set up our Open We Stand micro-site to help our community of customers.”

Another micro-business that has adopted a new digital approach to meet the challenges of the Covid-19 crisis is The Summerton Whisky Club. The UK-based Whisky Club is a subscription service, sharing rare and unique bottles with its members.

Daniel Humphrey from The Summerton Whisky Club says: “In addition to the Club, we organize a whisky festival every year. We have been unable to hold the festival as planned, but didn't want to postpone or cancel. We sought a digital alternative, so we have chosen to run a virtual whisky festival to ensure that whisky fans have something to look forward to.

The response has been incredibly positive, and we will be running more virtual festivals this year. Whilst Covid-19 has been a challenge for us all, we have found that it is important to try new things. These are difficult times and people understand that, so are really supportive if you are trying something new.”

Many micro-businesses have risen to the Covid-19 challenge in increasingly inventive ways. GoDaddy customer Manchester Gin, a gin distillery in the North West has adapted their 1000 litre copper still to produce hand sanitizer for their local NHS hospital.

GoDaddy is supporting its micro-business customers through its Open We Stand campaign. This is a dedicated micro-site for small businesses and entrepreneurs with a library of resources, including articles, videos and how-to guides designed to help them adapt to the challenges presented by Covid-19.

Rob Clymo

Rob Clymo has been a tech journalist for more years than he can actually remember, having started out in the wacky world of print magazines before discovering the power of the internet. Since he's been all-digital he has run the Innovation channel during a few years at Microsoft as well as turning out regular news, reviews, features and other content for the likes of TechRadar, TechRadar Pro, Tom's Guide, Fit&Well, Gizmodo, Shortlist, Automotive Interiors World, Automotive Testing Technology International, Future of Transportation and Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology International. In the rare moments he's not working he's usually out and about on one of numerous e-bikes in his collection.