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Visa’s Business Outlook Study Shows Permanent Digital-First Pivot

The pandemic fueled the necessity for both businesses and households to quickly adopt a digital-first way of managing just about every aspect of their lives, from school and work, to banking, paying bills, shopping, entertainment and more.

Digital became the new normal, with small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) leveraging technology to survive during uncertain times. As the world slowly turns the corner toward an unpredictable post-pandemic future, a digital way of life is firmly rooted in the future.

To help SMBs stay afloat during the pandemic and beyond, Visa in 2020 earmarked over $200 million from the Visa Foundation, to help companies worldwide gain a foothold in the digital economy and easily accept digital payments.

The newly released “Visa Back to Business Study: A Global Pulse on Payment Preferences” shows that 68% of respondents said the global pandemic has permanently changed the way they handle payments

“With a 19-month view into the pandemic, we’ve seen that small businesses that embraced digital commerce and cross-border sales have weathered the pandemic better,” Mary Kay Bowman, global head of buyer, seller, core and platform products at Visa, said in a press release about the study that was emailed to PYMNTS.

See also: Visa’s Kevin Phalen: Global SMBs Get Back to Business, Optimistic About the Future

Bowman added that it’s now gone beyond SMBs adapting and staying afloat, and has moved into a “new breed” of entrepreneurs going digital for the first time, right out of the gate. She said Visa helped 16 million SMBs go digital, and the company has a multi-year goal of digitizing 50 million new businesses around the globe.

This fifth edition of Visa’s outlook study turns the spotlight on the economic advantages that come from bridging SMBs, technology and the general public. The study shows that consumers are concerned about touching cash or any payment terminals, with more than two in five shoppers indicating that they wouldn’t go to a store that didn’t have a contactless way to pay.

Read more: Visa, Mastercard Earnings to Anticipate Credit Rebound and Contactless Surge

Some 74% of SMBs worldwide indicated that they expect that trend to become a mainstay. About 40% of SMBs without contactless payment options, such as tap and go, indicated that investing in that technology is a priority to meet shoppers’ expectations.

Last year, 17% of SMBs made the move to eCommerce for the first time, while this year, 57% of respondents anticipated continuing online sales in the next three months.

There are obstacles, however, with 33% of SMBs pointing to data privacy and security concerns, 31% citing expenses related to digital infrastructure and 30% fearing a loss of personal connection to their customers, according to the study.

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While 54% of respondents said the pandemic posed challenges, 46% indicated that it proved to be a gateway to opportunities, up from 38% in November 2020. Last year, 37% of SMBs that viewed the time as an opportunity said their focus was on introducing new products. Some 34% were looking to build out their sales channels, while 23% scrapped their old businesses and launched something new.

This new edition of the outlook study was conducted by Wakefield Research in June, among 2,250 small business owners at companies with 100 employees or fewer in the U.S., Brazil, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Russia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.

The consumer portion of the study surveyed 1,000 adults ages 18 and over in the U.S., and 500 in Brazil, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Russia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.

Visa said that 3.4 million new business applications were submitted between January and July of this year, and the global financial services company is committed to helping them “embrace the digital future.” Since the onset of the pandemic, Visa said it has launched global community programs “from Dubai to DC” to help SMBs digitize their payments processes.

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