(BPT) - Shutdowns, social distancing and debates, the coronavirus pandemic and social unrest in 2020 threatened to divide the country. But despite societal tensions, one thing brought people together: their commitment to small businesses. Aflac’s 2021 Business Culture Survey reveals support for small businesses in the community is near universal, even breaking through ideological divides that exist within the country.
“As people were dealing with the isolation of the pandemic and round-the-clock reports of its impact on communities at home and around the world, we expected a corresponding diminished sense of unity, but when it comes to support for small businesses, our survey found the opposite was true,” said Aflac Senior Vice President of Distribution Expansion and Consumer Markets, Jeramy Tipton.
Unity across ideologies
Whether left-leaning or right-leaning, urban or rural, consumers remain united in their support for small businesses: 59% of left-leaning and 61% of right-leaning consumers are willing to pay more at local businesses for the same product they can find online, with 59% of urban and 62% of rural consumers also willing to do so. Both groups are also more willing to forgo the convenience of online ordering to shop at local small businesses.
Small businesses grow closer to their communities
While the pandemic seemed destined to hurt relationships, Aflac’s 2021 Business Culture Survey reveals how business owners, customers and employees actually built community as parties pulled together to weather adversity: 81% of small-business owners reported that they maintained or grew closer to their employees and 53% became more informed of their employees’ personal lives.
The pandemic also emphasized the value of employees, their loyalty and efforts to remain engaged and productive in difficult times. In fact, 81% of small-business owners felt retaining talent was as or more important than previous years, and 82% maintained or increased benefits for their employees. Consumers are taking notice, too. In making purchase decisions, almost as many consumers consider how a business treats employees (58%) as they do customer service (62%).
Consumers up their appreciation for small businesses
Just as the pandemic produced greater appreciation by small-business owners for employees, consumers reciprocated, upping their appreciation for small businesses as well: 49% of small-business patrons tipped or spent more to support their local businesses, including 45% of those who also reported a decrease in personal income.
“We were encouraged to see that the small-town culture of care between local businesses and their communities was not severed, but actually strengthened, including small-business owners finding a renewed sense of care when it comes to the well-being of their employees and customers,” Tipton said.
The 2021 Aflac Business Culture Survey is part of Aflac’s Care in Motion: The Small-Business Story campaign, which will highlight small-business stories of resilience.