The Many Faces Of Main Street SMB Recovery

The Many Faces Of Main Street SMB Recovery

Try comparing the numbers of the COVID-19 economic asteroid hit to anything that came before, and it quickly becomes apparent that there is no apt comparison. Just under nine million Americans lost their jobs during the Great Recession of 2008, and it took about two years for all of those firings and layoffs to be finished.

Contrast that with roughly 40 million who have lost jobs in the first months of 2020. There’s simply never been anything like this since America itself began. So, what happens now?

The latest in PYMNTS’ Main Street On Lockdown series – the Business Recovery edition – is based on a May 8 survey of 431 SMBs, and identifies “…the digital technologies in which firms are investing […] the methods they are using to stay afloat and [exploring] how a new stimulus funding round from the [SBA] may be changing their financial stability.”

A glimmering bright spot in the daily bad news cycle is PYMNTS’ finding that businesses of every type – especially small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) – are using the pandemic as an impetus to make needed operational changes and bring SMBs’ online presences firmly up to date.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has been a catalyst for small firms’ innovation, with 71.7 percent of SMBs improving or adding digital capabilities since the crisis began,” according to the latest findings. “Our survey reveals that 49.4 percent have either improved upon existing online order-ahead for pickup features or added new ones during the past 10 weeks, while 50.1 percent have improved upon or added eCommerce portals. We also found that 47.3 percent have enhanced or added mobile wallet capabilities, and 46.9 percent have done the same for digital invoice capabilities.”

Because optimism is a potent force, a surprising number of respondents to the Business Recovery edition survey believe they will return to a post-pandemic business model. Despite mounting cultural, societal and legislative sentiments, there’s no going back to post-COVID business models.

“Thirty-nine percent of SMB owners say they have changed how they run their businesses since the pandemic began, but plan to revert to their prior operations when their economies reopen, while 30.6 percent say they have been forced to close, but plan to operate as they did once they can reopen,” the new report states. “We found that 27.6 percent plan to maintain some of the changes have made during the pandemic and just 2.8 percent plan to maintain all of their operational shifts.”

The majority of SMBs surveyed by PYMNTS, however, see the COVID-induced digital shift as having lasting if not permanent effects on commerce in both physical and digital environments.

“A plurality of SMB owners will maintain the digital innovations they have developed to help their firms survive during the pandemic, and many intend to invest in more digital innovations in the future,” the new survey found. “Forty-two percent of SMB owners say they have developed new digital capabilities to cope and will maintain them after the pandemic, while 36 percent say they will invest more heavily in developing new digital capabilities after their local economies reopen.”

Perhaps the most buoyant finding in Main Street On Lockdown Business Recovery edition is the fact that SMB owners appear to be feeling a bit more upbeat about business prospects with each new survey.

PYMNTS’ latest research shows that that 48.1 percent of SMB owners “…are confident they can keep their businesses open through the pandemic, up from the 46.5 percent who said so on April 20 and the 41.8 percent who said the same on April 6.”

And while that is a good sign, America’s devastated Main Street business districts have a long road ahead, and not everyone will make it. “The share of SMB owners who are sure they cannot stay open through the pandemic has also increased — to 7.2 percent from 5.3 percent on April 20,” the new report states.



The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.