Visa said Monday that it had launched a series of digital initiatives aimed at helping tens of millions of small and micro-business recover from the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.
The payments giant said in a release that the programs are focused on helping 50 million smaller firms across the globe “get back to business” and focuses on several areas: enabling SMBs to build an online presence (fewer than half of those companies have any online presence at all); helping them embrace digital payments and encouraging end consumers to shop locally.
The company also said it formed the Visa Economic Empowerment Institute, focused on economic and social issues that stretch beyond the pandemic’s challenges and include closing racial and gender opportunity gaps. Initial projects will focus on post-crisis recovery and resilience and will also provide insights into the gig economy.
In addition, In the U.S., Visa is expanding its partnership with IFundWomen, providing grants and digital training to U.S.-based Black women-owned small businesses.
Digital Presence and Online Payments
To help these companies expand digital presence, Visa has built localized online resource centers across 20 countries to offer tools, partner offers and information on how to launch and grow digital-first businesses.
In specific reference to the impact of the coronavirus, Visa noted that smaller companies account for half of employment globally, and yet nearly half of those companies, at 43 percent, say they have enough money on hand to last six months.
Training a spotlight on the growth of digital commerce, Visa said that spend per active card-not-present cardholder was up 25 percent in April compared to January, and 90 percent of shoppers have said they are hesitant to shop in-store amid the pandemic.
As an example of regional initiatives, Visa said it is investing to increase the number of digital payment acceptance devices within European shops by more than 50 percent.
Visa said that beginning next month, “street teams” will offer “back to business” kits to merchants that include POS materials and educational offers. The “street teams” program will initially launch across the largest U.S. cities and expand beyond the U.S. to 15 countries such as Singapore and South Africa.
To encourage consumers to shop locally, Visa’s Back to Business Project is billed as an online tool that helps shoppers identify which enterprises are open even in the wake of the pandemic. That tool has gone live in Australia, New Zealand and the U.S. and will launch in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Visa said that as part of the SMB services promoting local commerce, it is teaming up with eCommerce platforms like Shopify and restaurant delivery companies such as Deliveroo to reward consumers for spending their money locally.
“Small businesses on the frontlines of the global economy deserve extraordinary support in this extraordinary time,” said Al Kelly, CEO and chairman of Visa in a Monday statement. “We are putting our network to work to help 50 million businesses globally not only survive, but also to thrive, along with the communities they serve.”