Hong Kong
Asia Insights Paytech

Hong Kong’s SMB Pandemic Trends Compared to Nine Other Markets

Prior to the pandemic, very few people were allowed to work from home or have a hybrid set up. But now, it has become the norm. Continuing to analyse pandemic trends, Visa has released the 6th edition of its “Visa Global Back to Business Study – 2022 SMB Outlook” report that monitors the continuous shifts in the attitudes of small and micro businesses (SMBs).

The study conducted in December 2021 found that 94 per cent of surveyed Hong Kong SMBs are optimistic about the future of their businesses (compared to 90 per cent globally), ranking second among all markets surveyed. When it comes to payments, 95 per cent of Hong Kong SMBs surveyed said they will accept contactless payment or some form of digital payment option in 2022 (higher than the global average of 82 per cent), and over half (56 per cent) of consumers surveyed expect to use digital payments more often in 2022, with just 2 per cent  saying they will use them less.

“Payments are no longer just about simply completing a sale. It’s about creating a simple and secure experience that reflects one’s brand across channels and provides utility to both the business and its customer,” said Maaike Steinebach, General Manager of Visa Hong Kong and Macau. “The digital capabilities that small businesses have built up during the pandemic – from contactless to eCommerce – helped them pivot and survive, and by continuing to build on this foundation, can now help them find new growth and thrive.”

According to this year’s study, which surveyed small business owners and consumers in nine markets – Brazil, Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Russia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates and United States – the consensus outlook for 2022 is one of optimism and intent to digitiae even more:

The Path Forward in 2022 for SMBs

Cross-border Selling Provides Opportunity for Growth: 75 per cent of Hong Kong SMBs expect to sell across borders more in 2022, even though a market-leading 77 per cent report it as a challenge. With regards to payment, almost all (96 per cent) Hong Kong SMBs find it a challenge to accept and process payments from customers in foreign countries, 24 per cent higher than the global average of 74 per cent and tying with UAE as highest-ranking market, followed by Singapore (92 per cent).

Going Long on Digital Payments – Even Crypto: An overwhelming 92 per cent of Hong Kong SMB respondents (compared to 84 per cent globally) anticipate being able to shift to relying exclusively on digital payments within ten years, including seven per cent that are cashless already. Of those surveyed who plan to accept some form of digital payment option in 2022, 34 per cent said they plan to accept digital currencies such as Bitcoin.

eCommerce Buoyed Business with Spotlight on Online Pressure: 97 per cent of small businesses who have an online presence said they attributed pandemic survival to increasing their efforts to sell online, compared to 90 per cent globally. However, an overwhelming majority (92 per cent compared to 79 per cent globally) felt some sort of pressure to compete online with newer and tech savvy competitors.

“Our study revealed a gap between the demand for cross-border selling, and how unprepared small businesses are to go global. This opens up an opportunity for the financial industry to help them close this gap,” added Maaike Steinebach, General Manager of Visa Hong Kong and Macau. “At Visa, we are redefining B2B cross-border payments with next-generation commerce solutions such as Visa Direct and B2B Connect, which deliver cost efficient payments with predictability and transparency for small businesses to meet shifting demands.”

Consumers Set the Tone in 2022

Consumers are Embracing the Global Marketplace: As small businesses look to expand internationally online, 90 per cent of Hong Kong consumers plan to shop across borders the same amount or more in 2022, compared to 81 per cent globally. On average, 75 per cent responded they are comfortable buying items or services from a business in another territory. Of those who are not completely comfortable, 58 per cent cite protection typically offered by their credit or debit card issuer in case of fraudulent or if the product or service is not received, provides them with peace of mind.

Accelerating Toward a Digital Future: Nearly one in three (31 per cent) Hong Kong consumers have opted not to buy something in a physical store because they weren’t offered a way to pay for it digitally. More than two in three (68 per cent) consumers responded they expect to shift to being cashless within the next ten years, including ten per cent who already are. The top benefits for relying more on digital payments were convenience (54 per cent compared to 37 per cent globally), easier to shop online (51 per cent) and less physical contact (38 per cent).

Spotlight on Small Business Shopping: Nearly one in four (23 per cent) Hong Kong consumers plan to shop at small businesses more often in 2022. While the majority (72 per cent) say they’ll shop at small businesses the same amount, with only five per cent saying that they’ll shop at small businesses less often.

Digitally-Enabling 50 Million Small Businesses

Since the start of the pandemic, Visa has launched a variety of community-based programs to help more small businesses accept digital payments and gain greater access to the digital economy. As part of this ongoing commitment, Visa also announced it has helped to digitally-enable 24.8 million SMBs worldwide, or 50 per cent of the multi-year goal it set in 2020 to digitise 50 million SMBs.


  • Francis is a journalist and our lead LatAm correspondent, with a BA in Classical Civilization, he has a specialist interest in North and South America.

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