UK Business Index: What is UK business thinking

The unprecedented levels of uncertainty caused by COVID-19 might be disrupting a lot of business plans but the new virtual environment is also providing more opportunities including in learning and collaboration. As borders open and non-essential travel bans ease, the international business community is eager for information about how the UK business community is reacting and adapting.

We surveyed 250 employees across a range of businesses and industries to get a snapshot of what the UK business community is thinking now, with a particular focus on marketing, PR and social media.

87% of respondents say the business they represent has in fact maintained its profile and reputation despite the ongoing challenges posed by the pandemic. So, what exactly are UK businesses doing to mitigate the impact of COVID-19?

Let’s take a deep dive into our findings.

Digital Marketing Is Driving Up Engagement
UK businesses have continued to focus their efforts on marketing and PR throughout this period. In fact, 82% say that their company’s marketing and PR activities have been important for keeping customers/consumers engaged since the onset of COVID-19.

Maintaining contact with customers is crucial at the best of times, but particularly at the moment. Transparency has become a focal point, with businesses sharing information on how they are adapting and responding to the pandemic.

As well as retaining existing customers, this focus on transparency and regularity is also enabling businesses to pique the interest of new customers, with 70% saying that their business had “altered/expanded/changed” its audience(s) in response to COVID-19.

Getting your messaging right is key, which is why 90% of companies have adapted their social media, press release, email and web content to reflect the impact. This can take the form of coronavirus content “hubs” (particularly in the B2B market) where COVID-specific content is published, links to external resources that offer support and changes to tone of voice that take into account the challenges consumers are facing currently.

Interestingly, despite reports that influencer marketing is facing a crisis, with many sponsored content deals disappearing due to ad budget cuts, 61% of the people we surveyed said their business has engaged in more influencer marketing since March.

Over half of businesses have ramped up their activity across LinkedIn (56%), Instagram (57%) and Twitter (57%). These results align with other industry findings. Twitter has witnessed a 45% increase in its curated events page usage and a 30% increase in Direct Message usage since 6 March.

Elsewhere, Snapchat has observed an increase in engagement on its ads with a 36% increase in install volume for app ads and LinkedIn has recorded 55% more conversational activity between existing connections in recent weeks.

More Opportunities For Networking
Just over half of the businesses we surveyed are making the most of the new proliferation of virtual content and media. Since the onset of the virus, 52% of respondents have attended business-related webinars.

Various firms have produced webinars specifically focusing on UK market entry here’s one from us for example, providing those considering the UK as a potentially viable option with an opportunity to learn, reflect and prepare for trading in the country under the “new normal”.

Slightly more of our respondents (54%) have attended business-related virtual conferences since the UK lockdown began in March. With the cost of travel and accommodation eliminated, conferences are becoming more accessible for international delegates.

Could now be the time to prepare for UK market entry?

60% of our survey’s participants agreed that access to virtual alternatives have led them to engage in more networking in general. As the UK is doing more business networking this way, it’s easier for international companies to network without setting foot in the UK.

Firms With A UK Presence Are Pivoting
UK businesses are continuing to innovate and adapt at lightning speed in incredibly difficult circumstances. This is reflected not only in business’ external communications, it is manifested in the new products and services they are offering.

84% of respondents agreed that their business had considered consumers’ changing habits.

In the edtech space, MentalUP is offering a 30% discount to UK subscribers during school closures in a bid to support parents teaching their children at home. The firm’s award-winning brain games are designed for children aged between 4 and 13 years.

NMITE, New Model Institute for Technology and Engineering in Hereford converted its administration offices into a makeshift factory and harnessed the capabilities of its team to deliver new engineering solutions to increase production of vital PPE items such as visors across the county.

Opinion over the speed of the UK’s economic recovery and the form it will take is divided, however two things are for certain: the UK business community is doing everything in its power to remain resilient and remains open for international business.

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