Small Business Owners Go Digital to Grow

Trends / Technology
Gabrielle Pedro Fredrick
Jan 17, 2023
The COVID‑19 pandemic has forced us all to rethink our habits, and small business are no exception. When quarantine forced us all to stay home, it was critical for many stores to expand their reach online, particularly small businesses, especially as lockdowns forced many to go out of business, permanently.1

This technological shift has changed how we visualize the idea of convenience, watching  visuals related to “convenience” shift from a physical store such as a gas station to a person at home, easily ordering something on an app. Our proprietary VisualGPS consumer survey indicated that more than half of small business owners have felt empowered by technology, and it shows in their success. When those small businesses adapted to COVID‑19 lockdowns and restrictions, those that used delivery apps supported 16.11 million jobs and contributed $2.76 trillion into the economy.2 Over half of small businesses report3 an increase in client interactions after going online, and at least a quarter of them even shifted to exclusively online sales—but this shift is just beginning to show up in popular small business imagery.
Working from home
Convenience isn’t just limited to customer interactions. According to our consumer survey, 75% of small business owners believe that working from home allows for a better work/life balance, and the Small Business Administration confirms that almost half of small business owners now work from home. Thanks to new practices of hybrid work, representations of telework and working from home have doubled in small business imagery during the pandemic.

However, popular imagery has yet to catch up with this new shift. Almost half of top images still reflect people in white‑collar scenarios. Yet as sites like Etsy4 have over 88 million customers spending more and shopping more frequently from small business directly, we rarely see these kinds of merchants appearing in popular small business imagery. In fact, only 3% of images featuring entrepreneurs at home show the reality of having to package and ship their goods from where they live.

As we see a rise in “side hustles”5 amidst economic uncertainty, the way people are working for themselves is changing. Help represent this shift in entrepreneurship by representing different kinds of small businesses in visual choices outside of start‑ups and white‑collar co‑working spaces, such as a home‑based baker taking an order or a retail merchant livestreaming new inventory from a home office. There are so many small businesses and entrepreneurs to represent that are as vast and diverse as their goods and services.
Thinking outside the virtual box
According to our VisualGPS consumer survey, in‑person visits are the main factor in deciding to shop at a small business—and when everyone was quarantined, small businesses had to adapt to stay afloat. These habits have outlasted quarantine and are now becoming standard practice. As small business owners reached out to customers online, they learned what our research confirmed: video posts on a brand’s social media page are the next deciding factor for consumers when deciding to shop at a small business. Turning to video6 allowed entrepreneurs to reconnect with customers at the height of the pandemic though new social media practices such as tours or product demonstrations.

When brick and mortar doors reopened to customers, other technologies have been utilized to adapt shifts in consumer behavior. More consumers are shifted to contactless pay7 and small businesses had to integrate those systems, but these have yet to be visualized in popular imagery. Even before the pandemic began, almost three‑quarters8 of small businesses were adapting tablets into their work spaces—yet less than a tenth of popular small business visuals feature them. The marriage of computing power and accessibility has been embraced by entrepreneurs who utilize them in different ways9, from making inventory easier to making transactions easier for customers.

We can demonstrate these adaptations of technology by incorporating these habits in our visual choices. Incorporating these seemingly small nuances such as a customer paying for goods with their smartphone or even a waiter taking an order with a tablet can help establish trust and competency with customers on these different changes permeating how small businesses both look—and operate.
1) Yelp data shows 60% of business closures due to the coronavirus pandemic are now permanent (CNBC)
2) The Impact of Technology on US Small Business (US Chamber of Commerce)
3) 10 Small Business Statistics You Need to Know for 2023 (Oberlo)
4) Investor Relations (Etsy)
5) Inflation Forces Over Half of Americans to Consider Second Jobs (Bloomberg)
6) How Small Businesses Are Turning to Video and Content Creation Amid COVID‑19 (Legal Zoom)
7) Contactless Payment Systems Are On The Rise As Pandemic Changes Consumer Habits (Forbes)
8) Why Small Businesses Are Going All In on Tablet Adoption (Biz Tech Magazine)
9) 8 Ways In‑Store Tablets Improve the Customer Experience (
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