Facebook has published a new report which looks at the impact of COVID-19, and the global lockdowns to limit its spread, on SMBs in various regions.
The report incorporates responses from more than 30,000 small business owners across 50 countries, and highlights the key concerns and challenges they face as each seeks to maintain operations. The insight provided is important for virtually every organization, as the flow-on effects will relate to spending in almost all aspects, and will have far-reaching economic effects.
You can download the full, 49-page report at this link, but here’s a look at some of the key notes and charts.
First off, Facebook notes that the job crisis is ongoing, and likely to carry on for some time, even after the pandemic.
As per Facebook:
“One third of small businesses surveyed reported a workforce reduction as a result of the pandemic, and 26% of businesses around the world had to entirely shut down their operations from January to May. In some countries, 50% of businesses had to close.”
The data shows that tourism and event-related businesses have been the hardest hit, with 54% of tourism agencies and 47% of hospitality and event small businesses reporting almost total shutdowns. That said, all sectors have reported significant sales impacts.
Those impacts are also universal, with all regions reporting similar levels of impact across their small business sectors.
Which, inevitably, impacts their capacity to pay staff – and while most have reported that they’ve been able to keep the same number of staff on their books, largely due to government subsidies, some regions have been forced into significant reductions.
Yet, despite the bleak data, Facebook also reports that most business owners remain optimistic.
“Nearly three quarters (74%) of businesses that were closed at the time of the survey expect to reopen as lockdown measures continue to lift.”
Which is a positive, yet as some regions are seeing, the risk of a second wave will also have an impact, with various cities and states forced back into lockdown as case numbers spike after initial easing. That will make it a tough going for some time yet – but the fact that business owners, overall, remain positive is a good sign for eventual recovery.
At the same time, many have also turned to online options to maintain their operations.
“For example, in 20 In 49 of the 54 countries in the sample, at least one-third of SMBs indicated that they had earned a minimum of 25% of their sales from digital channels in the previous 30 days. In 15 of the countries surveyed, more than one-half of businesses were making at least 25% of their sales online. More than 60% of businesses are meeting this threshold in Singapore (62%) Canada (64%), Ireland (65%), and Russia (65%).”
That’s significant, both in the immediate and longer-term. As more people come to realize the benefits of shopping online, that will lead to new, habitual behaviors. eCommerce has long been on the rise either way, and the lockdowns will only exacerbate that shift. The impacts, then, will also extend to employment, as fewer businesses need as many staff to continue their operations, as well as the need for digital marketing expertise. If or how those trends will offset each other, at least to some degree, will be an important element to monitor.
Overall, Facebook’s report presents a fairly downbeat view of the current state, though hope remains that we can get back to normal at some stage. Significant challenges will remain for some time yet, and new trends will emerge as a result – but as noted, the impacts listed here will be felt across the entire economy.
SMBs make up a huge amount of business activity, and without them, we all lose out. That’s why it’s important to support your local business where you can, while for business owners, it’s important to note the trends and perceptions in your own approach.
You can read Facebook’s full ‘Global State of Small Business Report’ here.
TikTok Faces More Legal Challenges Over Data Collection and its Failure to Protect Young Users
TikTok is facing yet another legal challenge in the US, with the State of Indiana filing a lawsuit that accuses TikTok and parent company ByteDance of violating the state’s consumer protection laws, and in particular, failing to safeguard young people and privacy.
As reported by BBC:
“Indiana filed two lawsuits on Wednesday. The first one claims the app exposes young users to inappropriate content. In the other complaint, [Indiana] also alleges TikTok does not disclose the Chinese government’s potential to access sensitive consumer information.”
Described in court documents as ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’, the suit alleges that TikTok ‘deceives and misleads’ consumers about the risks to their data, while also exposing youngsters to ‘a variety of inappropriate content’.
TikTok’s faced similar challenges around the world, and has even been banned for periods in other nations due to perceived promotion of harmful content. Recent reports about harmful challenges have also heightened concerns on this front. A Bloomberg investigation highlighted at least 10 cases of underage users dying after attempting dangerous trends like ‘The Blackout Challenge’.
And this is an aside from the broader concerns about data privacy, which the app remains under CFIUS investigation for, as US politicians continue to debate whether or not the Chinese-owned app should be allowed to continue to operate within the US.
It still feels like it would take a significant escalation for the app banned outright, but that remains a possibility, and with various high-profile security officials also sounding the alarm, the pressure remains high on TikTok, with the threat of total removal from the US, and likely other markets in-turn, looming at all times.
Last month, FBI Director Chris Wray stated that, in his view, TikTok poses a threat to national security, joining FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr and Republican senator Josh Hawley in voicing their concerns about the app and its data gathering processes. Republican Senators, in particular, have continued to raise queries about the app, as the Biden Administration oversees its long-running review of the platform, which has experienced repeated delays and setbacks, and is now, reportedly, unlikely to be completed by its original end of the year timeframe.
But it could, eventually, recommend the removal of TikTok in the US.
For its part, TikTok says that it remains confident that it will be able to address all US concerns about its data security, via a new deal with Oracle to store US user data in the US. But with the company recently noting that European user data can still be accessed by China-based staff, the concerns remain high, and could easily rise even further, dependent on overall US/China relations.
So how are relations between the two superpowers going?
Just looking at headlines from the past week, there are reports of a potential defense partnership between China and Saudi Arabia, ongoing tensions over Chinese military activations in the South China Sea, and the US increasing its military presence in Australia due to concerns about Chinese escalation.
All of these are issues that could lead to further tension between China and the US. But they might not – and while the two nations are working to establish more beneficial, equitable and peaceful ties, that bodes well for TikTok, as there’s no significant increase in public pressure to take action against the app.
But again, things can change very quickly, and with so many security experts flagging concerns about the app, along with the issues related to underage exposure, there’s clearly a level of underlying concern, that could bubble up at any time.
And when you also consider TikTok’s growing influence – the app now has over a billion users, and is increasingly being used as a search engine and a news source, especially among young audiences – those questions are valid, and should be posed before it’s too late.
The influence of Russian activists on Facebook was only ever analyzed in retrospect. Those calling for action on TikTok are warning that we need to be proactive on such this time around.
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