Digital Life And Death: SMBs Have To Adapt Now, CEO Warns

Walk down some blocks in New York City, and you will see many darkened Mom & Pop stores. What could these small businesses have done to survive? They could have gone online, says Steffen Schebesta, CEO of North America for Sendinblue, the software firm based in France. 

And it’s easy to do, given the right tools. But time is running out. Email Insider interviewed Schebesta, who has relocated from Germany to Toronto, on the challenges faced by small firms. 

Email Insider: What are you seeing in the market?

Steffen Schebesta: What we’ve seen since the first lockdowns appeared is that small businesses are struggling to survive  They have taken the route of going digital, but transitioning into digital is the biggest challenge they have. If they don’t succeed, there’s no way they can compete with Amazon. 



EI: What do small businesses bring to the table? 

Schebesta: Small businesses have two advantages over the bigger players. One is that they’re local, and you can walk to them. And they have a lot of touchpoints and can be very personal. A bakery or a small shop understands the customers impacted by the lockdown.  

EI: But it sounds like there are stumbling blocks. 

Schebesta: There are two major things I would advise against. One is not collecting data. The second is waiting too long. You can’t wait any longer — it’s already very late. There’s more competition than ever. Even If you’re not very tech-savvy, and maybe just a business owner working on your own, it’s still possible to build an ecommerce shopping site.  

EI: What kind of data do you need? 

Schebesta: Getting email addresses is a requirement. You can have a signup form on your website, and try to generate leads, and go into different channels and have some ads on Facebook or Instagram. Try to get emails and phone numbers and stay in touch with customers. 

EI: Let’s say you have email addresses. What’s next? 

Schebesta: You can leverage features that are very easy to do. For example, send time-optimization emails based on AI algorithms that optimize every email that is sent out, even if there are 10,000 at a time.

Then there are abandoned shopping cart emails. It used to be difficult, but it’s super easy to set up these up, and to set up coupon codes. By doing that, you can create highly relevant content for the customers.  And you don’t have to set up complicated workflows for yourself.

EI: How can your company help?

Schebesta: You can use our software to build a small landing page, put it online, distribute it, put some ads on Google and Facebook, and get your brands out there.  

EI: Do you create emails?

Schebesta: We don’t create content, but we do offer a lot of templates you can use.

EI: You specialize in small businesses? 

Schebesta: We cover everything from tiny companies to large organizations, but our sweet spot is SMBs. 

EI: What’s your forecast for the future?

Schebesta: I hope it will go back to normal eventually, maybe in the second half of next year. But normal will be different.

A lot of things are here to stay. Once you go digital and have an online presence and have automations and can send out newsletters, why go back?

If you do it right now, you will be stronger when the pandemic is over. 


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