New Research Documents Increasing Need for Training to Close Digital Skills Gap

The success rate between the most digitally aggressive and the digitally skeptical small businesses is widening, exposing a skills gap that could leave behind small businesses struggling with digital tool adoption, according to new research by the Connected Commerce Council (3C).

In a survey of more than 2,000 small businesses nationwide, Digitally Driven: 2021 found that “Digitally Advanced” businesses that adopted technology before COVID-19 continued to integrate new digital tools during the pandemic. Moreover, “Digitally Uncertain” businesses are seeing their more advanced counterparts achieve greater success. Digitally Advanced businesses earned twice as much revenue and hired twice as many employees during COVID-19 than Digitally Uncertain small businesses.

“The Digital Safety Net saved millions of small businesses and softened the blow for millions more during the pandemic,” said President Jake Ward. “Social media, digital advertising, financial and operational management, and online marketplaces all give Digitally Advanced businesses a leg up. As businesses and the economy look toward recovery, we should work to stop Digitally Uncertain businesses from falling further behind and through the Digital Safety Net,” said Ward.

Digitally Driven: 2021 found that 82% of advanced businesses credited Digital Safety Net tools with helping them succeed during the pandemic, compared to only 26% of uncertain businesses. Also, nearly 97% of advanced small businesses adopted new digital tools during the pandemic compared to 51% of uncertain small businesses.

The report also found:

● During COVID-19, advanced businesses had 5X better retention of existing customers and 20X better acquisition of new customers compared to uncertain businesses.

● Advanced businesses adopted tools for hiring, training, collaborating, and e-commerce at a rate of 14X higher than uncertain businesses.

● Advanced businesses are more optimistic about the future as 88% are confident they will be making new hires this year compared to only 36% of uncertain businesses.

● Digitally Uncertain small businesses cite cost concerns and lack of knowledge as reasons for not embracing digital tools.

“Digital tools are affordable, secure, and scalable. Ensuring small businesses can access digital tools is the secret ingredient to their success. Policymakers must work hand-in-hand with private industry and educational institutions to make access to digital tools training easier and empower small business’ future success” added Ward.

The study was conducted by Greenberg in partnership with 3C and Google. It can be downloaded here.


Release from the Connected Commerce Council. The Council is a non-profit membership organization with a single goal: to promote small businesses’ access to essential digital technologies and tools. 3C provides small businesses with access to the market’s most effective digital tools available, provides coaching to optimize growth and efficiency, and cultivates a policy environment that considers and respects the interests of today’s small businesses.