Social media kept Singaporean SMEs alive during pandemic

Social media can be a considered a lifesaving platform for businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. With physical stores unable to operate due to lockdowns, many businesses, especially small medium enterprises (SMEs) had to move their sales operations online in order to survive.

While larger and more establish businesses could afford to update their websites, SMEs were face with growing challenges on their digital adoption. Not only did most of them lack the technical expertise, but many simply did also not know the processes involved.

As cloud-native and tech savvy SME businesses were able to blend in to the new normal, the non digital savvy SMEs soon found themselves falling behind. But it wasn’t for long. Thanks to social media, these businesses were able to sell their products on social media pages as compared to online marketplaces like Shopee and Lazada.

According to a survey by PayPal in Singapore, social media emerged as the top way to grow the business during COVID-19. In fact, social media is now the preferred sales channel for online merchants, with 53% of those surveyed currently using it to sell their products. Online marketplaces and third-party e-Commerce platforms were not highly sought after. The reasons cited by SMEs in adopting social selling include ease of use (53%), low cost to run (44%) and lower maintenance (47%) than other online selling channels.

Facebook, Instagram and TikTok are among some of the biggest social media platforms that both SMEs and large corporations have been relying on during the pandemic to help them boost their sales. The global market for social commerce is also projected to reach a revised size of US$ 2.9 Trillion by 2026.

Interestingly, the survey also showed that 43% of online SMEs did not see a negative impact from the pandemic. When it came to payments, SMEs cited a greater reliance on digital payment methods as the top shift in consumer behavior in Singapore since the start of COVID-19.

As such, 81% of SMEs are already engaged or planning to engage in cross-border trade. At same time, 78% of SMEs surveyed are interested to invest in more payment options to enhance user experience, with 49% of respondents expressing willingness to convert to PayPal as one of the top two payment options that offer trusted, secure, and global payments.

Digital payment methods have led to a shift in consumer behaviour on social media. A move to online shopping and a greater preference on shipment options are among the biggest changes witnessed among online shoppers in Singapore.

“While COVID-19 restrictions posed significant challenges for a lot of businesses, SMBs in Singapore showed their resilience by adapting and strengthening their online proposition.  They have been getting online, leveraging social media in promoting and selling their products, and capturing new customers in other markets through cross border commerce,” said Rakesh Krishnamuti, PayPal’s Director of Enterprise Sales, Southeast Asia.

He added that digital payment platforms remain a critical part of the online customer journey and the more seamless it becomes for shoppers; the better chance SMBs have of growing their businesses both locally and internationally.

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