Research conducted by Venture Insights and commissioned by NBN Co found that 49% of respondents have increased online shopping during the COVID-19 crisis, and significantly, 70% now consciously supported local businesses online and the same number would like to support more local businesses, but felt they had a limited online presence.
According to NBN Co, the survey highlights an opportunity for Australian businesses to strengthen their online presence and offer new ways for people to access their products and services.
NBN Co says that developing a stronger online presence, adding innovation to product and service offerings and providing home delivery were selected as the top strategies local businesses could adopt to make it easier for people in their communities to support them - and consumers also valued regular communications from local businesses.
NBN Co also says that with more than one million business customers now connected to the NBN network, the NBN Behavioural Change Survey highlights how consumers have increased their online activities during the COVID-19 crisis and “have a desire to engage more with businesses online”.
Paul Tyler, Chief Customer Officer – Business at NBN Co said: “The challenges businesses have faced as a result of this crisis are many and significant, however this research highlights a unique opportunity for local businesses to harness new levels of consumer goodwill and demand online”.
“An online presence can expose businesses to a world market, but the support of local consumers also offers an important opportunity.
“Our research highlights that consumers are shopping more online and consuming from local businesses as a result of their experience with COVID-19 social distancing measures. I hope that this sentiment can become an opportunity for local businesses to adapt and emerge from this time in a position of strength.”
NBN Co points to the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry which recently conducted its own research that indicates many businesses are already adapting their operations and making the shift online.
Dr Ross Lambie, Chief Economist at the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry said: “Our recent national business conditions survey found that many businesses have adapted their operations to continue trading during the pandemic crisis, with almost a third expanding their online presence, and a quarter changing their mode of delivery or diversifying into new product lines and services.
“These new insights reinforce the importance of businesses developing a digital strategy and online presence. It’s certainly encouraging to hear that so many Australians are eager to support the local businesses in their community and this should provide even more incentive for businesses to meet that demand online.”
To assist businesses impacted by the pandemic crisis, NBN Co recently announced a COVID-19 connectivity relief package, including providing financial support to Internet providers on wholesale monthly charges for businesses facing financial hardship, as well as discounted access to new connections of specified wholesale business grade products to help SMBs maintain or re-establish their operations, once the crisis passes.
The Australian Government has welcomed the new research showing that Australians are increasingly supporting local businesses online, with the Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, Paul Fletcher, commenting that Australians have shown “remarkable community spirit and are supporting each other where they can, including backing local businesses during these challenging times”.
“Businesses have encountered many unprecedented challenges during COVID-19, and what this research shows is that there is a significant opportunity for businesses to expand online and harness the very strong ‘buy local’ sentiment of consumers,” said Minister Fletcher.
“The survey results show that people are committing to local businesses and would spend even more of their hard-earned money locally if businesses were more accessible online.
“There are now more than one million businesses now on the NBN. However, many smaller businesses are still on residential-grade plans and may benefit from a business-grade service with additional features such as symmetrical speeds and priority support to minimise down-time.
“I encourage Australian businesses to speak to a telecommunications retail service provider to find a plan best suited to their business requirements and to invest in digital channels to make the most of increasing demand for online commerce.”