UK SMEs among most digitally savvy in Europe, according to Facebook

Posted on: Wednesday 15 July 2020

Over half of British SMEs make more than 25% of their sales online, with female-led SMEs leading the charge according to Facebook’s new survey, conducted in partnership with the World Bank and the OECD.

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Facebook’s ‘Global State of Small Business Report’ shows that UK small businesses are among the most digitally savvy in Europe, with over half (56%) making more than a quarter of their sales online, behind only Ireland where 65% are equally digitally savvy. In the UK, 63% of female-led SMEs make a quarter of their sales online, compared to less than half (48%) of male-owned businesses.

The survey also found that while 43% of UK small businesses were forced to temporarily close due to lockdowns, and 58% saw sales fall, 60% of UK owners remain hopeful for the future of their business, making the UK's SMEs the most optimistic in Western Europe alongside the Netherlands. 

Germany's small businesses are close behind with 58% of them saying they are optimistic for the future. In contrast, French SMEs have taken a more cautious view, with just 35% expressing optimism. However, Scandinavia has the most positive outlook, with 72% of Danish, 66% of Norwegian and 66% of Swedish small businesses say they're optimistic for the future.

In the UK, female-led SMEs have fared better during the COVID-19 crisis; 64% of male-led businesses reported falling sales during the pandemic so far vs just 52% of female-led businesses. Accordingly, female-led businesses are 11% (63%) more optimistic than their male equivalents (52%), and only Swedish female-led businesses (69%) are more optimistic across all of Europe.

Commenting on the study, Steve Hatch, VP of Northern Europe at Facebook, said: ​“From fitness classes, to restaurants, and beyond, small and medium sized businesses are the backbone of economies across the world - and it is vital we support them as they get back on their feet. These findings show a steely optimism among British business owners looking to bounce back better following Covid-19, despite how challenging the past few months have been. At Facebook, we’re committed to doing all we can to provide guidance and support to all SMEs to help them go from surviving to thriving.”

The survey findings follow the announcement of Facebook’s partnership with ​Be the Business​ to provide support ​to h​elp the UK’s 1.4 million micro and s​mall businesses recover from the impact of COVID-19. 

Last month, IAB UK launched a new study ‘Powering Up’ to help the UK’s SME market unlock more from digital advertising. The research shows that while 60% of SMEs are currently investing in digital advertising, there are opportunities for SMEs to diversify their strategies and get more value from digital channels. Find out more here.


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