Majority of Small Businesses Have Never Met Regular Customers

New report reveals ‘virtual economy’ has transformed the nature of UK business

Majority of Small Businesses Have Never Met Regular Customers

The ‘virtual economy’ has changed the UK’s business relationship landscape according to a report by BT Business. 62% of firms were revealed to have regular clients that they have never met in person – with more than half only ever conducting business via email.

When suppliers were added into the mix, numbers rose to 85% of businesses that work with people they’ve not met face-to-face.

Social media appears to be the driving force behind this shift; 73% of business owners using LinkedIn admitted to accepting connections from people they had never had contact with, and 54% from people they have never met in person. Despite this more virtual connection, 39% reported new business opportunities and 31% a new business partnership.

While digital communication is becoming increasingly commonplace, traditional methods of business networking still play a part in most firm’s networking strategies, with 71% of business opportunities still coming from customer referrals, 38% via mutual friends and 31% networking events.

And face-to-face interaction remains the top method of communicating internally, with evidence that employees would prefer to use face-to-face communication more. 29% of employees said they would like to liaise with customers and external partners in person on business projects, even though the actual reported figure was less than half of this number.

Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation, commented: “This report shows entrepreneurs increasingly at ease in making those connections and doing business with people they haven’t met, whilst still valuing the power of face-to-face communication.

“It delivers the evidence to show technology has made the world a smaller and more connected place – and one that makes the working life of the self-employed so much easier as social media is embraced for promotion, cloud computing for key business functions, and powerful marketplaces for international trade.”

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