SMEs face off pandemic pessimism with digital innovation

Small businesses made bold decisions to diversify their service offerings during lockdown, with over a third moving their business operations online (from either a partial or absent online presence beforehand) -- spending anywhere between £1,000 and £5,000 doing so.

Three quarters of these SMEs plan to sustain their new services over the long-term, but over half plan to do so without any form of cyber insurance, according to data published today by Direct Line.

The pandemic has dramatically accelerated the pace of digitisation around the world. For many of the small businesses polled by Direct Line, such progress would not have been achieved had it not essentially been forced upon them by the country-wide lockdown.

When asked about ramping up their online presence, small businesses said that they had achieved the following since the beginning of the lockdown in March:

Increased or started a social media presence (19%)
Enabled remote working for employees (18%)
Enabled online ordering systems and deliveries (11%)
Improved company website (10%)

The rapid transition was not always a smooth journey, with deadlines, equipment, funding and skills availability all presenting challenges for firms working in uncharted territory
.
When asked about digital cover, 57% said they had no plans to invest in cyber insurance, 30% said it was not a priority and 25% believe they don't need it, despite data showing a rise in cyber attacks since the pandemic was declared.

Direct Line business manager, Karneet Chowdhury, said: “Small businesses have responded admirably to the challenges of COVID-19 -- diversifying services, rapidly shifting online and launching new products to survive and thrive.

“But now they need to take the next step and ensure their new services are fully protected. Cyber-attacks have the potential to devastate a business and completely derail digital progress they have made since the pandemic struck."

In step with similar studies seen this week on business sentiment, most of the SMEs polled by the insurer feel optimistic about the success of their small business in the 'new normal'.

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