COVID-19 has had an impact on a myriad industries, with businesses in different sectors suffering as a result and a few high-profile organisations having to shutter their doors as a result. Small business in particular stands to suffer as a result, but a recent Facebook survey (PDF) says there is still a relatively high amount of optimism.
In fact, the survey, which gathered insight from 30 000 business owners and employees from across the globe, including South Africa, is that while there is concern for the long-term impact of jobs, the short-term still remains resilient.
Looking closer at the local numbers, Facebook says 44 percent of operational organisations are optimistic about the future of their small business.
While we cannot question their optimism, it is important to note that this feedback is from those businesses still in operation. Those which have faltered or are perilously close as a result of COVID-19 might have a different take on things.
Sticking with those operational small businesses in the country surveyed by Facebook, 45 percent expect cash flow to be a problem in the next few months.
This is likely due to the fact that many people in the country have not anticipated the extent to which we would be fighting COVID-19. In the past week for example, the presidency added new restrictions on lockdown regulations on the sale of alcohol, which will no doubt impact small businesses in that field.
As for those not impacted by government decisions, it is increasingly important to have a digital presence, as well as a means for consumers to get products online. To that end, the Facebook survey points out that of the 59 percent of operational small businesses, 25 percent have made their sales via digital channels in the past month.
“Small businesses are the heart of our communities – from coffee shops, and bookstores to plumbers, taverns and graphic designers,” notes Nunu Ntshingila, regional director of Facebook Africa.
“But we know they are facing the challenge of a lifetime. These survey results further highlight what we are already seeing, that the COVID-19 pandemic isn’t just a public health emergency, but also an economic crisis that is hitting SMBs exceptionally hard, and one that collectively as a community we need to urgently address,” the regional director adds.
In order to give small business greater access to digital channels, we’ve seen Facebook launch initiatives likes its Shops platform in recent weeks. The company is also seeing more businesses leverage the other social media platforms under the Facebook banner.
“Globally more than 160 million businesses use Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, or WhatsApp every month to reach their customers, sell their products or services and ultimately to grow.” says Ntshingila.
“They are the heartbeat of Facebook’s community and since the early days of the pandemic we have taken steps to help them weather the storm. These are tough times for businesses all over the world, we would like to help with their recovery,” she concludes.
It will certainly be a testing period for any small business moving forward, and in order to weather the storm, we tend to agree with Facebook’s belief that digital is the best avenue to withstand the impact of COVID-19.