March 30, 2023


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What’s Next For Small Business Email Marketing

More online shopping means more email marketing from smaller players.

I recently asked John Orlando, CMO at email marketing platform Constant Contact parent company Endurance International Group, for his take on what’s been happening.

Paul Talbot:  The ‘Shop Local’ movement has enjoyed momentum over the past few years… how has this been impacted by the pandemic, and what can a business do to maintain the strength of this shop local tailwind in an online environment?

John Orlando: The pandemic has undoubtedly pushed shoppers online, but they aren’t ready to give up on buying from small businesses in the process.  When we polled consumers, 60{de3fc13d4eb210e6ea91a63b91641ad51ecf4a1f1306988bf846a537e7024eeb} said they have gone out of their way to visit small or local businesses more often in 2020 than they did in 2019 and 70{de3fc13d4eb210e6ea91a63b91641ad51ecf4a1f1306988bf846a537e7024eeb} have made it a habit by visiting at least once a month.

Just 5{de3fc13d4eb210e6ea91a63b91641ad51ecf4a1f1306988bf846a537e7024eeb} said they would always choose a larger retailer over a small business when shopping online.

The environment remains extremely complex, but I don’t expect the desire to shop online to wane any time soon.  Embracing that is key to a successful recovery, and it will become even more important for business leaders to evaluate how they can balance their current online strategy with in-person sales once the pandemic begins to subside.  Those who can maintain a strong digital presence will likely be positioned well for a rebound.

Talbot:  Data from the U.S. Department of Commerce reveal a doubling of the share of retail sales through online transactions from Q2 2019 to Q2 2020.  Does this rising tide lift all boats, or have smaller businesses either underperformed or overperformed against the average?

Orlando: Ecommerce is for everyone now, from locally owned shops to the largest retailers in the world.

We don’t often think of small businesses as having aggressive ecommerce strategies, but that perception is becoming more and more untrue.  While Covid-19 may have accelerated their digital transformation overall, many have been moving online for years.  That includes adding ecommerce stores to their websites to reach more customers, deepening their email and social media marketing strategies and embracing more of a digital-first business model.

When the pandemic hit in March, there was a clear dichotomy in the small business world between those who were early adopters of ecommerce and those who didn’t have much of an online presence.  Small businesses who offered their products and services online were able to measure clear and rapid growth in their businesses, which allowed them to recognize and quickly react to the chaotic landscape we saw this spring.

Talbot:  What specific moves should small businesses take to do more business online right now?

Orlando: For small businesses, the time for action is now.

Because social distancing requirements make it challenging to shop in-person, the best way to capture those potential buyers is to create an intuitive online store and give it the same treatment as your brick and mortar location.  

I’d also recommend small business leaders pay more attention to how they manage inventory, especially if they sell on other channels like Amazon or Etsy in addition to their online store.  Accurately forecasting order volume, anticipating demand and updating your website is absolutely essential to avoid a situation where customers are ordering items that are actually out of stock.

Talbot:  How can a small business identify and communicate the advantages it offers a consumer?

Orlando: It all comes back to knowing your customer.  When you understand what unique factors are most important to their buying journey, it becomes much easier to deliver that value to them.

The fact is, while many shoppers are highly price and speed sensitive, those may not be the most important factors for every business.  

Small businesses can also be more nimble than larger retailers, and that flexibility is a major asset when it comes to finding creative alternatives to speed and price.  Bundling related products to create a more compelling package or offering ironclad support are things that shoppers might not expect from small businesses.  

I’ve seen some local businesses begin partnering with their competitors to offer twice the value to consumers, which is exceptionally rare to see from larger sellers.