The economic opportunity in connecting SMBs, communities, and technology

  • Continuing to help SMBs go digital is crucial for recovery -- for both SMBs and consumers.
  • Visa’s well on its way to fulfilling its promise of enabling the digital move for 50 million businesses worldwide.

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The economic opportunity in connecting SMBs, communities, and technology

By Mary Kay Bowman, Head of Global Seller Product & Solutions, Visa

After a 23 year long corporate career, Zoe Marshall from the small town of Fareham in Southampton, England found herself jobless and at risk of losing her home. To support her family, she partnered with her husband James, a commercial fisherman, and opened a small family business: Sea-licious, a fresh fish and seafood retailer serving their local seaside community. 

Marshall says that having Visa’s help in accessing digital payments was key in entering a new industry and starting their business from the ground up. The Marshalls are currently building an online store, through which they will access the greater economy and expand outside of the local community. 

It is small businesses like Sea-licious leading the recovery of communities around the globe. It is also these small businesses that have struggled the most during the pandemic, with 43% of SMBs saying that they only have enough stored revenue to last six months out. 

Like Zoe and James, many new and old SMBS owners have gone digital and adopted contactless payments and transitioned to ecommerce to keep their doors open and customers coming back since the pandemic’s outbreak.

The move to the contactless in-store payments experience is well on its way to becoming the standard. Two thirds of customers expect brick-and-mortars to offer contactless payments. In fact, 44% of customers say they wouldn’t shop in stores that still require contact with a cashier or shared payments device. The preference is due to safety — both by decreasing chances of contagion due to physical contact, and fraudulent charges due to unsecure payments systems.

The move to digital goes beyond payments. Despite the economic downfalls around the globe, nearly half (46%) of SMBs — compared to only 38% in November 2020 — say they feel optimistic about the challenges of this past year, and see it as an opportunity to level up their business and focus on expanding their offerings, most notably focusing on new products and expanding sales channels. 

But this move is not always easy. While over half (57%) of SMBs expect to continue selling online in the short-term, many are experiencing the challenges that come with the digital ecommerce territory: data privacy and security, cost to invest in digital infrastructure, and having less of a personal connection with customers. Still, these significant hurdles are not discouraging the optimistic spirits of new business owners. The first seven months of 2021 saw 3.4 million new business applications. 

To address these challenges and support SMBs, Visa has made a multi-year commitment back in June 2020 to digitize 50 million businesses worldwide. Today, it has made good on over 30% of that promise, having invested in the digitization of 16 million of SMBs so far. As part of this mission, Visa has empowered digital-first businesses by building localized online resource centers around the world offering tools for starting, running, and growing digital-first SMBs. 

In Europe, Visa raised the number of payment solutions in brick-and-mortar shops by over 50%. In the U.S, it has provided grants and digital training to local black women-owned businesses. This past July, Visa’s street teams began visiting retailers across the 50 largest U.S. cities to provide “back to business” kits with educational and branding resources, point-of-sale materials, and special offers — with the goal of ultimately expanding to 15 other countries,.

The most important part of empowering communities through incentivizing SMBs means thinking locally. Visa’s online tool, the Back to Business Project, encourages people to invest their spendings back into their communities by making it easier than ever to identify where businesses are currently open — especially in the wake of the pandemic or a natural disaster — when shopping locally is most crucial. The project is currently live in the U.S., Australia, and New Zealand, and looking outwards.

These are just a few of various initiatives aimed at leveling the playing field for SMBs in the global economy, and empowering their leadership towards recovery. We are committed to action and transparency as we approach the goal of 50 millions digitally empowered businesses.

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