Email is one of the top three digital marketing channels used by small businesses. But they’re not investing in it, according to How Small Businesses Use Digital Marketing Channels in 2019, a study by The Manifest.
Social media and websites are the leading digital channels, being utilized by 73% apiece. Email marketing is third, used by 57%.
In contrast, 49% are using SEO, 34% are using video and 32% are using content marketing.
Overall, 95% will increase their digital investments in 2019. But email will not benefit. The investments are going to:
Why is email lagging in investment? It could reflect that email infrastructures are already in place, or that SMBs feel they should bypass the old workhorse to invest in glitzier channels like social.
While not commenting on the survey per se, Jeff Kupietzky, CEO of PowerInbox, argues that email users are getting the benefit of prior-year investment.
He adds that it is a challenge converting consumers from social media to recurring subscribers customers. “It doesn’t mean if they’re referred today you’re going to get them tomorrow,” he adds. With email, a company already has them.
The study notes that social media marketing "reaches a large audience easily and immediately,. Small businesses can promote their products in a cost-effective manner that is easy to track.”
These results are similar to those released last year by Clutch. It found that only 36% of SMBs planned to invest in email, compared with 54% for websites and 51% in social media.
Similarly, email was their third channel choice in that study, with 39% using it versus 62% for websites and 61% for social media.
The Manifest survey shows that 89% of small businesses invest in marketing, both digital and otherwise.
Overall, 35% are high on digital marketing, 31% on traditional and 23% on both. Traditional media includes TV, radio, direct mail, print, billboards and flyers — channels that are now perceived as costly and slow.
Digital is popular because it ”allows more direct interaction with consumers, as customers click advertisements and emails when they want to,” the study states. “Customers voluntarily engage with an ad, which demonstrates an initial level of interest.”
Social media offers both paid and free opportunities, it notes. However, SMBs apparently do not see similar benefits in SEO.
The study expresses surprise at the limited usage of video, given its high rates of engagement.
It concludes: “Small businesses that may not have the same resources as enterprise companies can more successfully compete digitally than through expensive traditional marketing endeavors such as TV commercials.”
The Manifest surveyed 529 small businesses across the U.S. It defines small businesses as having limited revenue and between 1 and 500 employees.