Survey Reveals Pandemic-Driven Small Business Trends And Expectations Are Here To Stay For The Long Haul

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The COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst for many new business practices and priorities, and it also accelerated the need for small business owners to adapt to other trends that were steadily on the rise over the last several years. As Canadian entrepreneurs continue to chart a path toward recovery and growth in these uncertain times, many are wondering which trends and consumer expectations are here to stay.

RBC’s latest poll of Canadians revealed three important trends that will impact the small business playbook for success in the next year. These include:

  1.  A growing demand for digital payment and engagement options: eCommerce and digital solutions were already on the rise pre-pandemic, but they became pandemic necessities as businesses adapted to health and safety measures. Now, more Canadians are expecting this to be the new way of doing business with two-thirds (64%) of Canadians saying that partnering with digital platforms to make products and services more accessible will be important post-pandemic, especially among millennials (72%). Meanwhile, four-in-five Canadians polled say that they would like to continue to shop online at small businesses, even after the economy is fully reopened, and 72% of those polled say that increased social media presence helped them become more aware of what small and local businesses had to offer.
  2. Canadians value small businesses that prioritize employee wellness and overall health and safety. Eighty-seven per cent of Canadian respondents say providing more wellness and mental health benefits and resources to employees will be important going forward. Nine-in-ten (88%) Canadian respondents also say they expect heightened hygiene standards to continue post-pandemic, and 78% would like businesses to continue offering curbside pickup and delivery services. Implementing employee benefits, resources and safety protocols to meet these new expectations will be critical differentiators for small businesses that are looking to attract and retain talent and customers in the next year.
  3. The rise of the socially and locally conscious consumer. Supporting small, local, and diversity-focused businesses is here to stay post-pandemic. The majority of Canadians (77%) polled say they plan to spend more at small, local retail stores, restaurants and businesses to support their recovery than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic. Many Canadian respondents are also actively seeking out and supporting 2SLGBTQ+ (52%) and BIPOC (61%)-owned businesses, products and services. This shift is significantly higher for millennials (65%, 69% respectively) and Gen Z (59%, 71% respectively), indicating that the next generation of consumers will increasingly purchase through a diversity-focused lens.

“There’s no doubt that the pandemic created some significant challenges and changes for small business owners. But it also became a catalyst to accelerate some important shifts that we started seeing pre-pandemic around digital adoption, a focus on wellness, and support for diverse businesses and community members,” says Don Ludlow, Vice-President of Small Business, Partnerships & Strategy, RBC. “These have become the new expectations of consumers for today’s small businesses. Successful entrepreneurs will be those who adapt their business strategies and operational practices to address these new consumer and employee demands.”

Entrepreneurial drive remains strong for small business owners
The rapidly evolving small business landscape has hardly detracted Canadian entrepreneurs from turning their ideas into reality. While business ownership may have started for a variety of reasons during the pandemic, many began as a result of new opportunities that were created by changing market conditions and consumer expectations. Among those who started a business or know someone who did, the majority of respondents say the pandemic provided an interesting opportunity (75%). Many business owners say that they started their business based on a shift in priorities or sense of purpose (76%), or the need to replace lost income (71%). With a shuttered economy, there was also more time and a stronger reason to formalize their business (74%) by officially registering their operations or opening a business banking account.

Helping entrepreneurs start, manage and grow their business
RBC has made it easier for Canadian entrepreneurs to start, manage and grow their business by offering valuable solutions that go beyond traditional banking to help business owners save time and money as they manage their day-to-day operations. Some helpful solutions offered by RBC and its collaborative partners include:

  • Ownr – a quick and affordable way to register, incorporate and manage your business online.
  • Moneris Online – An integrated bundle of e-Commerce, online payment and shipping solutions to help entrepreneurs quickly and effectively build and manage their online business.
  • RBC Insight Edge™ for Small Business – winner of Aite Group’s 2020 Innovation Impact Awardthis dashboard solution offers subscribed retail businesses with real-time data insights around customer trends, competitive benchmarks and market intelligence to support business decisions.
  • Nextdoor – a neighbourhood app that helps small businesses connect with local consumers by creating Business Posts and Local Deals.
  • Magnet – Canada’s largest campus recruiting platform to help business owners match with, and hire young talent.
  • Wello – Small business owners can offer this virtual health and wellness service to employees to provide 24/7 access to mental and physical health resources, and intermittent or urgent care through a virtual healthcare practitioner.
  • RBC’s Black Entrepreneur Program – In 2020, RBC made a five-year commitment of $100 million to support the inclusion and growth of Black Canadian entrepreneurs by providing access to capital, network of experts and community engagement efforts.

Entrepreneurs can access these solutions and business advice online through the RBC Small Business Navigator at


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