One in three businesses say customer engagement is the biggest challenge they face during COVID-19, with the retail sector the hardest hit.

Since the outbreak of Coronavirus, companies across the globe have had to adapt to new ways of working and the difficulties that come with it.

New data from telecommunications provider Esendex reveals customer engagement to be the biggest struggle faced by one in three businesses right now (37%). Almost a quarter of firms (24%) are experiencing reduced demand for their services and/or product, while 14% say safely managing their workforce is their biggest endeavour.

The survey also highlights the ways in which companies globally are dealing with the crisis; 40% have moved to remote working, while for 22% it’s ‘business as usual’ with precautionary measures. One in five organisations have been forced to temporarily close – in the retail sector that figure is one in three (35%).


Amy Robinson, senior brand development manager at Esendex, said: “The statistics show just how difficult the current climate is. Business leaders have a lot to think about – how to stay operational, how to navigate the challenges of mass remote working, how to keep employees safe and how to keep customers engaged.

“We also learnt that half of the companies we surveyed are most likely to need SMS services for customer marketing and updates – rising to 66% in the retail sector. The findings really highlight the fact that firms are having to tailor the ways in which they communicate to deliver high levels of customer service – whether that’s by email, text, social media or even WhatsApp.”

Retail expert Andrew Busby added: “Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, customer engagement and retention were challenging enough; now, however, capturing it is a truly elusive task. Not only have retailers got to try to overcome months where their customers were repeatedly told that it is dangerous to visit enclosed spaces; with the majority of household incomes significantly suppressed, our propensity to spend is no longer at the level it was prior to the outbreak of the virus.

“Reputation will be a key part of getting customers through the door: retailers will have to convince their clientele that they’ve got a safe and responsible offering and can be trusted. This vital, because retail contributes nearly £400 billion a year to the UK economy.”

The survey looked at challenges faced by hundreds of businesses globally and the impact COVID-19 has had on their operations. It also revealed education, financial services and healthcare as the sectors finding mass remote working the biggest hurdle right now.

Official ONS data shows that total retail sales stood at £34.6 million in March 2020 – up 24% when compared to February. However, when comparing year on year, sales have dropped by 2.3%.