10 predictions for the post-COVID world of small businesses

How will the social distancing guidelines required by the response to coronavirus/COVID-19 affect small businesses in the long term?
Derek Webster
Founder & CEO
May 1, 2020


In early March 2020, coronavirus/COVID-19 upended all the basic assumptions we had about how small-business commerce works. At CardFlight, we immediately began analyzing weekly sales activity of the small business merchants using SwipeSimple to accept payments, in order to gain and share insight into the short-term impacts of these changes. We regularly publish this analysis, in a weekly report we call the Small Business Impact Report.

Now, as communities determine how to reopen safely, governments, employers, and the public are starting to assess how activities will transform in the months and years to come. We believe that small businesses have been permanently changed in several ways. Below are our initial predictions based on current conditions and data, and our view of how small business owners will need to adapt as they work toward recovery.

Shifts in the way businesses accept payments will rapidly accelerate

Emerging trends in the payments industry that were previously expected to take place over the next decade will accelerate by 1–3 years.

1. Contactless tap to pay as the preferred way to pay over dipping chips or swiping magnetic stripe cards, and certainly over cash. Both customers and employees will claim “cash is gross” and merchants will need to accommodate all forms of contactless payments.

2. Actively taking physical checkout out of the equation, even for things that have to be done in-person, like purchasing a hot latte and a croissant, and onsite service calls.

3. Reprogramming payment terminals to drop the required signature line.

4. Choosing cloud-based payment solutions to replace physical wired hardware terminals. Business owners will use these “smart” solutions to accept payments while being agile serving customers and to monitor business no matter where they are.

Food and retail delivery initially implemented on an emergency basis will stick

5. Curbside service, online ordering, and subscriptions for items consumed daily are here to stay. Consumers have discovered that they love the new level of convenience now available to them from local businesses. And merchants will discover they like the “stickiness” these customer interactions foster.

6. Shutdown service models — like family meals, farm-to-kitchen produce boxes, and meal-prep kits — have created new market opportunities. Maintaining these as reopening begins across the country will augment revenue, especially while in-restaurant dining is still restricted.

Small business loyalty will grow from a good idea to community survival

7. As businesses shuttered and laid off or furloughed their staff, many chose to share their pain on social channels, rather than conceal these changes. Support from their customers quickly evolved into active fundraising to assist employees during unemployment, in many instances. 

As some of these businesses reopen, customers who are able will take active involvement in helping these businesses survive. The “corner restaurant we like” sentiment will grow into a way to support jobs in our community, as will customers’ willingness to support some businesses beyond traditional commerce.

Professional and personal boundaries with staff have been forever changed 

Business owners will now:

8. Be expected to look out for the safety of their staff at work at a new level—including providing gear, supplies, and equipment to support social distancing practices during business hours.

9. Increase awareness of and be supportive of external aspects of their employees’ ability to work safely including transportation, dependent care needs, and the level of risk within their households. 

10. Need to be proficient in mental health and emotional fitness. Before pandemic, it may have been assumed employees would take care of themselves in order to deliver on their professional commitments. Business owners will now share that responsibility in terms of providing resources and the ability to talk openly.


These are just a few of the trends that we are watching. Looking ahead, we plan to release a series of deep dive explorations examining how these forecasts play out as the economy reopens.

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