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Discover how small businesses across the UK are building a strong and expanding e-customer base. 

How has the pandemic most affected the UK’s small businesses? What have been the biggest challenges – and how have retailers responded to them? 

Along with our partners, Discover® Global Network, Opayo wanted to understand how the nation’s small businesses are feeling about the future. So, we commissioned a report to explore the impact of the last 18 months*. 

To read the report in full, just click here. Otherwise, read on to discover the key trends that we uncovered. 


Rise of the Online Local

Throughout the pandemic, the Rise of the Online Local trend played a critical role in keeping many small businesses afloat. This shift saw independent, local shops moving or expanding online, bringing their communities with them. 

Consumer desire to support local shops soared in response to Covid-19. 80% of the businesses we spoke to said that being seen as a local business had become increasingly important in this time, with 74% agreeing, or strongly agreeing, that their community had stepped up to support local traders. 

As businesses moved their operations online, this local support boosted their sales, with 36% of growth coming from offline customers going online. Confidence in ecommerce increased in every age group, with the most marked jump amongst those aged 55–75, who had previously been more cautious.  

“We were used to getting three or four online orders a week, and then it suddenly jumped to 150 orders a day,’ says Lucy Hull, co-owner of Whitley Bay gift shop, For The Love of The North. ‘It was big!”



To ease that shift online, many small businesses have been innovating and adapting what they do. 40% have introduced new customer-facing services, from click and collect to video advice. 

Others (56%) have introduced wholly new products and offerings. Of those, just over half say that this diversification has helped them to grow and generate more income than they enjoyed before the pandemic, while 46% said it was a lifeline that helped them to survive. 

”We developed a digital content ecommerce site and an e-gallery,” says John Gaunt, joint Managing Director at Sunny Bank Mills, in Leeds. “Our online presence means we’ve made some international sales. It’s nice to be sending art across to Europe and America.”


Focusing on the customer experience

All this activity is part of a clear trend of small business working to improve the customer experience. 75% of retailers say that they have dramatically increased their focus on this. 

As Sami Lovett, founder of bespoke product creation business, Just Lovett Design, says, “The last year has really proven that relationships – personal and business relationships – are still the cornerstone of boosting the local economy, and the online local economy as well.”

Small businesses have been working to enhance their customers’ online experience. 84% of small businesses say that digital signage is as important as signage in the face-to-face environment. 85% say that a good social media presence is vital going forward, and 92% stress that it’s vital to give customers as many payment options as possible when they check out online. 


Confidence is growing

The strength of online business is driving confidence about the future. 71% of the nation’s small businesses expect their revenue to grow in the next 12 months, with 84% saying that their online presence will continue to increase sales. 

The UK’s small businesses are looking ahead to succeed. To find out more, read our full report.

At Opayo, we’re here to help small businesses open up today and tomorrow. To find out how we can support you, get in touch. 

*Based on research with 160 decision makers in small online UK businesses across various sectors, commissioned by Opayo in partnership with Discover® Global Network


Unlocking the Power of Local

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Download the Report

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