The global COVID-19 Pandemic has seen unprecedented times for almost everyone. The effect on local business has been heavy, but there’s good news with a groundswell of support from customers wanting to ‘Buy local’ according to a new study by National Broadband Network operators NBN Co.

The NBN ‘Behavioural Change Survey’ was conducted by Venture Insights on behalf of NBN Co. in April this year garnering responses from 1,006 participants aged 18+ from all over Australia.

Results from the survey showed that 49% of respondents have increased online shopping during the COVID-19 crisis. The survey also found that 70% of respondents now actively went out of their way to support local businesses online. The same number of respondents would also like to support more local businesses, but felt they had a limited online presence.

The survey’s highlighting of the lack of online presence for local business combined with the opportunities afforded by the NBN Co, which recently announced that one million business customers are now connected to the network.

Speaking about the results of the survey, Paul Tyler, Chief Customer Officer – Business at NBN Co said

The challenges businesses have faced as a result of this crisis are many and significant, however this research highlights a unique opportunity for local businesses to harness new levels of consumer goodwill and demand online. An online presence can expose businesses to a world market, but the support of local consumers also offers an important opportunity. Our research highlights that consumers are shopping more online and consuming from local businesses as a result of their experience with COVID-19 social distancing measures. I hope that this sentiment can become an opportunity for local businesses to adapt and emerge from this time in a position of strength.’

To assist local business, NBN Co. recently announced they had created a $150 million COVID-19 relief and assistance package offering ‘Internet providers to connect low-income families with home schooling needs and assisting small and medium businesses and households facing financial hardship’ – this is just one of the responses from NBN Co. to the pandemic with upgrades to infrastructure and capacity also being offered to customers.

Research conducted by the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry showed that many local businesses have already seen the benefits of online trade adapting their operations and making the shift online.

Dr Ross Lambie, Chief Economist at the Chamber said:
Our recent national business conditions survey found that many businesses have adapted their operations to continue trading during the pandemic crisis, with almost a third expanding their online presence, and a quarter changing their mode of delivery or diversifying into new product lines and services.

These new insights reinforce the importance of businesses developing a digital strategy and online presence. It’s certainly encouraging to hear that so many Australians are eager to support the local businesses in their community and this should provide even more incentive for businesses to meet that demand online.

The research backs up the anecdotal evidence we’ve all likely felt since even the devastating bush fires across Australia in January. I, and likely most Australians seem to have made a commitment to buying more locally produced goods, and the COVID-19 outbreak has just cemented this decision.