Stocks to Gain From Small Business Shift to Digitization

One pertinent change brought about by the coronavirus is the tremendous use of technology with varying degrees across different industries.

The payments industry in particular was already undergoing a massive shift to the digital from its physical mode. Evidently, it saw an accelerated use of technology by customers and businesses during the COVID era.

A marked change was witnessed on the adoption of digital payment methods by small businesses, which in the pre-pandemic era had relied on age-old payment methods via physical or bank channels, which were mostly full of hassles.

According to Visa’s third installment of its global Back to Business study, 82% small businesses embraced digital technology to meet the evolving consumer behaviors by the end of 2020. Per the company’s survey, 37% small business owners were most concerned about a continued shift in the consumer behavior and almost 75% expressed concerns over the health and safety issues that are persistently keeping consumers away even in 2021.

Among the many shifting consumer behaviors that emerged last year, Visa found that selling products and services online was the top transition. Per an opinion poll held in June, 27% of small business owners confirmed that they shifted to contactless options for the first time due to the pandemic while 43%  reported to have increasingly embraced such a convenient touchless business tool. Further, going by the research, 87% small-scale traders assured that they plan to sell more online over the next three months.

Small-time businesses apart, consumers are inclined toward digital modes of payments. Almost two-thirds of respondents said that even after multiple vaccines flood the market to eradicate the deadly coronavirus, they would prefer using contactless payments as much as the present times or even possibly outdo the current frequency level. Additionally, 85% consumers stated that they expect to tap digital options when they shop in-person with 47% buyers saying that they will better avoid shopping at stores that do not offer contactless options to pay.

Consumers grew visibly conscious and every three in five purchasers clean their cards after use. In response to the shift in preference of the consumers, 82% small business owners are changing their operational ways, largely driven by the digital revolution. Now 43% businessmen started selling their products and services online, 39% accept contactless payments, 38% utilize targeted advertising on social media and 30% digitize business functions like backend payment operations.

It is also noted that the young generation is more hell-bent on digitizing their businesses. As a case in point, 80% millennials and 75% Gen X owners delivered a “much more bullish” perspective on these consumer preferences compared with 61% of the baby boomers.

While investing in technology, small businesses  show certain preferences. The topmost priority is the payment security and fraud followed by contactless or mobile payments, acceptance of payments via mobile devices, buy now pay later options and the digitization of backend payment operations.

Overall it is crystal clear that small businesses are moving toward digitization and this paradigm shift is likely to gather steam in times ahead.

Therefore companies making efforts in this area, whether in supporting small businesses with secure payment solutions and saving them from fraudulent practices, helping SMBs with backend operations, aiding in buy now pay later solutions, are likely to gain momentum.

Stocks in Focus

Based on these evolving trends, we zero in on a few stocks that have been catering to small businesses for a while now and will hopefully gain traction from the same. Each stock currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

Visa Inc. V enables digital payments at more than 61 million merchant locations around the world. The company’s priority is to help micro and small businesses thrive at every step since SMBs form a huge customer base for the company.

In June 2020, Visa announced a new online resource for small businesses, named Visa Small Business Hub to help entrepreneurs build stronger customer relationships and expand their businesses. Also in the same month, Visa made a commitment to digitally enable 50 million micro and small businesses worldwide in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent economic crisis. In April, the Visa Foundation announced a commitment of two programs totaling $210 million to support small and micro businesses to address an urgent need from the local communities following the spread of the coronavirus.

Mastercard Inc. MA enables digital payments at millions of merchant locations across the globe and this payment facilitator’s priority is to help micro and small businesses flourish at every step.

A couple of days ago, the company announced the creation of the Mastercard Trust Center, which is aimed to bolster small businesses and help defend their important assets and upkeep reputation through a free online access to trusted cybersecurity research, education, resources and tools. As part of its COVID-response plans, the company pledged $250 million as financial, technology, product and insights support for the next five years to small and medium business units worldwide, thereby lending a cushion to the financial security and vitality of businesses and their workers.

Global Payments Inc. GPN partners with more than 3.5 million small and midsize businesses around the world to provide them with intuitive, secure payments technology plus business and software solutions to help simplify the dynamics of commerce.

For American Express Co. AXP, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and consumers account for nearly 75% of the spending on cards. Via a host of offers, the company is aiming to trim down customer attrition and retain the existing ones plus attract new faces.

American Express is a supporter of small business, which is also integral to its customer base. Thus to favor these business entities, the company come out with back-to-business offers for small business card members. To this end, it provided rewards on purchases in back-to-business categories, such as wireless, shipping, advertising, gas and office supplies.

American Express also provided multiple discount and service offers for U.S.-based small merchants as they continue to invest in their e-commerce and digital capabilities.

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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