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The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have thrown a wrench into small business operations worldwide—creating a number of new challenges, trends, and rules. How are small business leaders and consumers reacting to these changes? Constant Contact’s Small Business Now report gathered answers from over 1,000 American small business leaders and 1,000 U.S. consumers to find out.
Chapter 1: A Social Disconnect
Social media marketing is a great option for small businesses to build a following and create awareness of their brand. It’s also a cost-effective way to maintain an online presence. But is social media the most effective channel for driving financial results? As our research indicates, it depends on who you ask.
Small businesses are likeliest to promote on:
Consumers are likeliest to buy from:
“Social media is still valuable for engagement and brand awareness, but you’re renting that audience—and rent is going up. Small businesses are unlikely to see the same level of growth once things normalize.”
- Patrick Gillooly, Marketing Director at Constant Contact
Social media marketing is effective for hooking consumers’ attention, but it should not be a small business’s first or only priority. Integrate your social media efforts with other marketing channels to create personalized experiences for customers, nurture them over time, and drive repeat business.
Chapter 2: Mixed Messages
Marketing channel preference wasn’t the only disconnect that emerged from our research. When it comes to understanding what types of email marketing content consumers prefer, we learned that small businesses aren’t as in-tune with their customers' interests as they think.
84% of small businesses are “very” or “extremely” confident they know what their customers want.
When asked what type of email encourages consumers to make a purchase...
Most small businesses answered:
Emails that check in on a customer’s well-being
Most consumers answered:
Emails with coupons or discounts
“Instead of planning campaigns around what you think is going to work best, set up indicators that can help you evaluate what is driving a business result. Then, let the data be your guide."
- Dave Charest, Director of Content Marketing at Constant Contact
Planning a marketing campaign around the wrong assumptions can be costly for a small business, particularly if its goal is to generate sales. Understand what your target audience is looking for, then do everything you can to deliver that experience.
Chapter 3: Modernizing Marketing
Lack of time is a common challenge small business leaders share when it comes to marketing themselves. Fortunately, small businesses are beginning to recognize that they can optimize their email strategy by using cutting-edge technology, such as automation and artificial intelligence.
Modern marketing technologies currently being used by small businesses:
How small businesses rank the benefits of modern marketing technologies:
Even though they know these technologies can save time, many small businesses are still spending hours managing email campaigns manually.
Others continue to be hesitant to apply these tools to their online marketing.
Of the businesses not using modern marketing technologies...
“Consumer behavior is changing too rapidly for small businesses to keep up on their own. A.I. and automation are the secret weapons they need to become more knowledgeable about their customers and save time marketing to them.”
- Jerry Jao, SVP of Advanced Marketing and Ecommerce at Constant Contact
Small business leaders are always looking for more time in the day. By infusing your email campaigns with the latest technologies, you can optimize manual tasks and generate strong engagement from subscribers in less time.
Chapter 4: The Ecommerce Transformation
COVID-19 dramatically changed the retail landscape, instilling new expectations in the minds of consumers and forcing businesses to get creative in the ways they enabled buying. As physical stores were forced to close, ecommerce emerged as a saving grace.
58% of small businesses started selling online for the first time after COVID-19 hit.
Nearly half of small businesses that currently sell online generate most of their revenue from ecommerce sales.
Now that most stores have reopened, in-person shopping is back in the mix.
Still, consumers continue to shop online frequently...
and if a small business doesn’t have an online store, many consumers say they’ll go elsewhere.
“The biggest thing we’ve learned during the pandemic is how important convenience is to shoppers. The challenge for small businesses is making their online and offline channels work cohesively to drive more sales."
- Nick Maglosky, VP of Product Strategy & Strategic Partnerships at Constant Contact
If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that businesses need to offer easy ways for shoppers to buy, both in-store and online. Taking the time to invest in ecommerce will assure potential customers that they can buy from you any time, from anywhere.
Constant Contact’s Small Business Now report analyzed over 2,000 survey responses from small business leaders and consumers across the U.S. The 1,000 small business respondents all had a job title of “Manager” or above and represented U.S. businesses with 100 employees or less. We also polled over 1,000 U.S. consumers, all of whom were 18 years or older and had made at least one purchase online since March 1, 2021. Both surveys were fielded from June 23 - July 2, 2021. Research was conducted by WiseWorks.